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Logistics risk in the Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Decisive land power is, historically, an essential I requirement for attaining any lasting success in major conflicts or contingency operations. While the Army provides full-spectrum, land-power dominance, it often does so at the expense of deployability. Light forces are easily deployable but lack lethality, tactical mobility, and protection. Heavy forces provide substantial lethality, tactical mobility, and protection but require extensive strategic lift, longer deployment time, and logistics support.

The Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) fulfills the Army's requirement for a medium-weight, combined arms force. It provides the near-term, land-power solution that bridges the gap between strategic responsiveness and tactical capability. However, for the SBCT to meet its 96-hour deployability requirement, the force structure of the brigade support battalion (BSB) was constrained artificially to a predetermined number of personnel, vehicles, and equipment. The BSB structure is austere and lacks sufficient organic capability, both in personnel and systems, to provide adequate combat service support to the SBCT in all but the most limited operations. As a result, the SBCT's ability to conduct uninterrupted offensive operations in either a small-scale contingency against a capable combined arms opponent or a major theater war as part of a larger force is at risk.

Stryker Brigade Concept

The SBCT is a full-spectrum, combined arms force with an offensive orientation, but it also can conduct defensive and stability and support operations. The SBCT is intended primarily for use in small-scale contingency operations in complex and urban terrains against low- and mid-range threats that may have both conventional and asymmetric capabilities. It requires augmentation (particularly with attack helicopters and artillery) to participate in major operations. Its design balances lethality, mobility, and survivability with strategic responsiveness, streamlined sustainability, and a reduced in-theater footprint.

The brigade can sustain itself for up to 72 hours. Its capabilities are derived from its excellent operational and tactical mobility, enhanced situational understanding, integration of combined arms down to the company level, and significant dismounted infantry strength for close combat on urban and other complex terrains.

Organizationally, the SBCT is primarily a mounted infantry force, it comprises three combined arms infantry battalions and a reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) squadron that are supported by anti-armor, artillery, engineer, military intelligence, and signal elements. Its brigade headquarters and headquarters company provides command and control, and its BSB provides all maneuver sustainment. A unique organizational design feature is the use of the Stryker interim armored vehicle (IAV) as the common platform chassis not only for the infantry carriers but also for the mobile gun system, mortar, RSTA scout, anti-armor, engineer mobility, command and control, and nuclear-biological-chemical reconnaissance vehicles.

The BSB consists of a headquarters and distribution company, a forward maintenance company, and a brigade support medical company. It is designed to perform distribution-based, centralized combat service support (CSS) as prescribed in emerging Stryker Force doctrine. Its distribution capability is very limited. The BSB's effectiveness depends on incorporating the latest CSS-enabling technology, enhanced CSS situational understanding, and exploitation of all available resources through joint, multinational, host nation, or contract sources.

The headquarters and distribution company provides bulk petroleum and ammunition support and all brigade distribution. The fuel support section and transportation platoon provide distribution capabilities. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) furnishes bulk fuel, water, and food. Fuel support ideally comes from within the area of operations whenever possible; pre-positioning of large quantities of fuel is not a desirable option. The fuel support section is equipped with 14 heavy, expanded mobility, tactical truck (HEMTT) tankers equipped with HEMTT Tanker Aviation Refueling Systems for retail operations and a load-handling system modular fuel farm consisting of 14 fuel tankracks on 14 palletized load system (PLS) trailers. Each HEMTT tanker and PLS tankrack carries 2,500 gallons; at a 90-precent operational readiness rate, the fuel section can hold 63,000 gallons.

Using organic materials-handling equipment, the headquarters and distribution company ammunition transfer point can handle up to 138 tons of ammunition per day and has the capacity to store 14 tons. Ammunition loads must be mission- or combat-configured because the ammunition transfer point does not have the capability to build or reconfigure loads.

Transportation assets are managed centrally and controlled by BSB support operations. The transportation platoon has 14 HEMTT load-handling systems (LHSs) and 30 personnel. It provides distribution lift for supply classes I (subsistence), II (clothing and individual equipment), IIIP (packaged petroleum), IV (construction and barrier materials), V (ammunition), VI (personal items), some VII (major end items), and bottled water. Each HEMTT LHS cargo delivery system is composed of a HEMTT-LHS truck and a PLS trailer. Each can deliver up to 11 tons or 900 cubic feet of cargo. The complete system can deliver up to 22 tons or 1,800 cubic feet of cargo. Total lift, at 90-percent operational readiness, is 277 tons.

Because the BSB's personnel and equipment are limited, a CSS company augments the BSB's transportation, supply, and maintenance capabilities and adds a field-feeding capability. It deploys into the area of operations following the brigade's initial operations and closure. The CSS company represents the minimum solution, assuming technical enablers are available and in place.

SBCT Concept of Support

SBCT sustainment operations are based on a responsive, distribution-based, centrally managed, execution-focused concept of support that must be integrated fully with the brigade's scheme of maneuver. Distribution-based logistics involves anticipatory ordering of supplies, coupled with rapid, continuous forward movement through the supply chain. The brigade initially deploys with 3 days' worth of supplies and can sustain itself (except for bulk fuel and water) for up to 72 hours in a 50-kilometer by 50-kilometer battlespace. Fuel and water in the area of operations must be provided by external support.

Rapid force projection dictates an austere SBCT CSS structure that is unable to provide the same level of support as that provided to conventional brigades. Because of this austere structure, CSS throughput is necessary to increase the responsiveness of support and sustainability. Throughput of strategic- and mission-configured loads in a seamless distribution pipeline reduces forward stock levels in the brigade support area (BSA). CSS situational understanding and speed of delivery eliminate the need for massing supplies forward. This distribution-based doctrine encompasses three factors: force agility, increased velocity, and situational understanding.

Agile military organizations have a relatively small footprint, so the maneuver commanders are not encumbered with large stockpiles of supplies or large numbers of CSS personnel on the ground. The key to agility is having only those CSS assets that are truly needed in the area of operations--no more and no less.

Increased velocity is a necessary condition of a distribution-based logistics system and makes the reduction of CSS personnel, equipment, and supplies possible. Increased velocity has several principles: maximum use of throughput, minimal load-handling through the use of configured loads and containerization, and scheduled but flexible delivery.

To be agile, CSS organizations must have advanced, seamless information technology that will provide them a complete understanding of the friendly, enemy, and logistics situations. Situational understanding requires several elements, including a common operating picture, integrated data programs, and a seamless information network.

The BSB provides distribution-based CSS to the SBCT on an area-support basis, down to the company, troop, or battery level. Anticipatory logistics allows resupply only when needed based on actual or projected requirements. Distribution is accomplished through the use of unit-configured loads, which minimizes handling.

The protection and security of moving elements in a hostile area is a major concern for the SBCT. Although the SBCT's expected area of operations is 50 kilometers by 50 kilometers, SBCT forces will occupy only a portion of that space. Therefore, most of the routes and areas in which CSS operations are likely to occur will not be secured with SBCT combat forces and will be vulnerable to enemy attack. Using combat forces to protect routine movements will reduce their effectiveness in carrying out their intended mission. As a result, the BSB normally must provide its own security for base operations and movement.

A variety of methods and tactics are required to ensure that CSS support is provided nearly simultaneously to forces that are spread over a large area. Decentralized operations and the vast array of potential circumstances and adversaries do not permit the routine allotment of combat forces to protect CSS assets, so it is imperative that CSS units and vehicles are able to mitigate the security risk by securing themselves, their area of operations, and their movements.

Convoy security training must become a routine training event and a well-rehearsed skill of BSB soldiers. CSS vehicle platforms, especially vehicle distribution systems, are equipped with weapon systems that can double as both vehicle-mounted and perimeter-security weapons. A sufficient mix of weapons, such as the MK19 automatic grenade launcher, and point weapon systems, such as the M240 machinegun and M249 squad automatic weapon, will help ensure that CSS units and vehicles have the capability to protect themselves.

Identifying Logistics Risk

The organizational structure and operational design of the SBCT assume logistics risk, and therefore operational risk, from three interrelated areas during maneuver sustainment: austere design, force protection during distribution operations, and unanticipated consumption.

Austere design. The BSB design fails to include sufficient personnel, vehicles, and materials-handling equipment to handle probable consumption, especially of bulk petroleum and ammunition. Current BSB capabilities are based on a bare-minimum supply requirement in a low-threat, best-case environment.

The Stryker vehicle system travels 5.7 miles per gallon of fuel. Its consumption planning factors are based on stability and support operations or on low-intensity, small-scale contingencies. The expectation is that the brigade will move mostly by road, with limited off-road or cross-country operations. Maximum road usage provides the best fuel efficiency. However, dynamic off-road, cross-country operations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, during Joint Training Exercise Millennium Challenge 2002 resulted in performance that was degraded by as much as 45 to 60 percent of planned factors. Because the SBCT's operational requirements were based on optimistic on-road fuel usage rates, the fuel support section cannot provide for increased fuel consumption in more dynamic operations. Additional fuel support will have to be provided by echelons-above-brigade assets. The CSS company, which is designed to augment the BSB, adds no additional fuel capability.

Ammunition consumption is predicated on the nature of the operation. It is impossible to predict ammunition consumption with any sense of certainty. Yet, the SBCT's current limited capabilities for handling and distributing ammunition are based on anticipated stability and support operations or low-intensity, small-scale contingencies. The CSS company adds another six HEMTT-LHS systems, principally for moving ammunition. This increase in transportation capacity is understood to be the minimum additional capability the brigade will need immediately on entry into the area of operations.

Force protection. The second area of operational risk inherent in the SBCT structure is force protection of distribution operations. During development of the SBCT's organizational and operational concept, after-action comments from wargaming analysis concluded that-

* Commanders must consider force protection in a totally different manner than ever before now that the changing operational environment has radically increased the zone of vulnerability of maneuver sustainment units and systems. Maneuver sustainment units must be supported with adequate assets to protect against air, missile, and conventional or unconventional threats. Ideally, sustainment commands will be resourced or provided with a designated level of protection for their activities during selected times on the nonlinear battlefield. Force protection is a critical component of the operational scheme of maneuver.

* The Stryker Brigade is especially vulnerable to long lines of communication, unoccupied battlespace, and bypassed enemy forces. Unoccupied battlespace is probably the single most significant force protection issue for a distribution-based force of very limited means. Any use of maneuver elements to provide security for CSS elements will come at the expense of mission accomplishment. "Nesting" distribution pushes with maneuver and reconnaissance elements may be viable, but it is a partial solution that cannot be relied on as a general principle.

* The BSB has no systems redundancy; indeed, it cannot sustain itself with organic assets past the first 72 hours in a benign environment. The BSB has no excess capability to conduct security; manning for force protection duties must come from within the BSB's capability to provide daily sustainment. Assigning two operators to each item of equipment or vehicle does not provide for redundancy or force protection unless the brigade conducts operations only 12 hours a day, which is not anticipated. For 24-hour operations, there is no capability for "riding shotgun."

* Because of the nature of its light armor systems, the brigade is quite vulnerable to direct and indirect enemy fires. This risk can be mitigated through better situational understanding (avoiding surprise encounters and identifying enemy unit locations), coupled with proactive counterfire before direct engagement by brigade maneuver elements. To do this in combat operations against any credible opponent, the SBCT must be augmented with attack aviation and artillery assets to destroy enemy direct and indirect fire systems before they can fire on and damage elements of the brigade. Such augmentation necessarily increases the consumption of fuel and ammunition. Even though risk to the brigade as a whole can be mitigated through different operational techniques and increased fires, the security of lines of communication and protection of limited distribution personnel, vehicles, and equipment are still at risk.

Unanticipated consumption. Unforeseen increased consumption is the third area of risk inherent in the operational design and organizational structure of the BSB. Lessons learned from extensive wargaming indicate that a force equipped with medium-weight light armored vehicles is exceptionally vulnerable to enemy indirect fires. The medium-weight force requires its infantry to dismount in complex terrain to prevent ambush and provide protection for the IAVs. Significant reconnaissance to identify and locate enemy indirect fire systems--followed by proactive counterfire to silence them--is required as a protective measure.

Assessing the SBCT's Risk

Capability shortfalls. In On Myths, Wishful Thinking, and Reality, J. K. Hawley observes that blitzkrieg would have died stillborn if the German General Staff had refused to authorize the increase in force structure required to support the new panzer divisions because of the extensive logistics tail necessary to support mechanization. (Blitzkrieg is the German word for "lightning war," an approach that allowed the German Army to use deception, combined arms, and deep battle engagement to take both Poland and France by complete surprise during World War II.)

Hawley notes that the unique organizational and doctrinal changes incorporated in the new panzer divisions created modern combined arms and maneuver warfare and resulted in the '"whole being more than the sum of its parts." He concludes that, when creating new force structures, holding personnel numbers at some fixed level in the new organization is the wrong approach. Rather, the questions that should be asked are: "What level of relative combat effectiveness is provided by the new force structure?" and "Is it worth any necessary increase in manning?"

When determining the necessary structure for the interim SBCT organization, applying arbitrary constraints in order to achieve an unachievable 96-hour deployability requirement misses the point of operational effectiveness. The end effect is to put the brigade on the ground at risk, at least until follow-on, modular, ad hoc elements are brought in to make up capability shortfalls, which is not ideal.

BSB organization. In the current structure of the BSB, a great potential exists for the SBCT to tail logistically because of a lack of sufficient organic sustainment capability and the absence of any dedicated force protection for distribution operations. Agility, CSS velocity, and situational understanding are all valid requirements for improving future sustainment operations. However, constraining the operational capability of the SBCT through the fielding of a BSB that is too small only increases the risk of failure, in spite of doctrinal and practical improvements in CSS distribution.

Consumption factors. Light armored forces do not fight the same way heavy forces do, which can lead to an unanticipated increase in consumption of both fuel and ammunition. Since SBCTs must be augmented with artillery and aviation, attack helicopter fuel and artillery ammunition consumption increases 11 to 15 percent.

Force protection. SBCTs face two types of force-protection risk. First, they are vulnerable to catastrophic losses from an opposing force's direct and indirect fires because of their light armor. This vulnerability requires aviation and artillery augmentation to conduct proactive counterfires to eliminate the threat before direct engagement.

The second force-protection risk stems from the way SBCTs fight. SBCTs fight differently from heavy brigades. Because they are only lightly armored, they refuse direct engagements and bypass larger enemy forces. SBCTs also operate in an extended, noncontiguous battlespace (50 kilometers by 50 kilometers, expandable to 100 kilometers by 100 kilometers). These two factors greatly increase the potential for ambush of distribution pushes or interdiction of extended lines of communication, with a corresponding loss of valuable CSS systems and critical logistics personnel.

The potential for asymmetric operations must not be overlooked. The SBCT is vulnerable to any infantry force willing to commit itself to severing the SBCT's lines of communication.

Should the Stryker brigade come up against a hardened force of good infantry, the SBCT's current operational concept must be completely revisited. Small teams of resourceful but lightly equipped infantry are capable of ambushing and destroying key sustainment systems, time after time. They do not need extensive technology, heavy logistics, or high-level control. They do not need combined arms, airpower, or artillery. What they do need, and can find in abundance in the world's arms and commercial communications markets, is light anti-armor weapons and handheld communications equipment. Facing an enemy armed with this equipment and a little tactical creativeness, the brigade will not have enough combat power to secure the operational maneuver space in which an SBCT is expected to operate. The Army has proven this to itself repeatedly during training rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Mitigation of Logistics Risk

The current structure of the BSB is inadequate. The Stryker Brigade could fail logistically because of insufficient organic sustainment capability, a shortage of critical personnel, and no dedicated force protection for distribution operations.

The CSS company, although designed to increase existing BSB capabilities and provide others, is an awkward solution. It is essential that the CSS company deploy concurrently with the brigade, albeit at the tail end of the flow, so it can begin augmenting sustainment immediately on arrival. Indeed, current force design discussion indicates that a CSS company will be formally incorporated into the BSB, not held out of the organization at some higher level. Although this solution may be better than some other options, it is not ideal. Why have a separate company, made up of disparate platoons and sections, that, on deployment, belong to other companies? If nothing else, this proves awkward in training and garrison operations. Although the CSS company may be a valid approach for augmenting capabilities that do not have to be introduced into the theater immediately, such as field feeding, echelons-above-brigade maintenance, and transportation, the BSB requires additional organic assets as a safeguard against failure.

The BSB also must have some integral combat arms capability to provide site and convoy security during distribution operations. The BSB, lean as it is, must protect the limited numbers of CSS systems that are critical in feeding, fueling, and arming the maneuver force.

Strengthening the SBCT

To reduce the potential for failure inherent in the Stryker Brigade's current organizational design and operational environment, I suggest two significant structural changes--

* Redesign the BSB by permanently incorporating the CSS company's transportation section (six HEMTT-LHSs and 13 personnel) and supply support sections (17 personnel), adding another team of six HEMTT fuel tankers to the fuel support section. The current BSB structure is too lean for sustained, redundant operations. Any losses of critical systems, such as the loss of one or more of the five forklifts or a HEMTT fuel convoy en route to the RSTA, would crush the brigade's ability to sustain its operational tempo.

* Add an infantry company to the BSB, or directly under brigade control, to provide dedicated security for extended distribution operations. Even if collocated in one of the infantry battalion's operational areas, the BSB and the BSA require dedicated force protection, primarily for distribution operations but also for local security of the BSA. Any expectation that the maneuver commander will willingly assign one of his nine maneuver companies or three RSTA scout companies to tactical combat force and convoy protection is doomed to disappointment. Currently, the brigade commander lacks sufficient depth in his maneuver array. Ideally, a commander needs 12 to 16 subordinate maneuver elements, 2 levels down, to maximize maneuver flexibility. The SBCT gives the brigade commander nine such elements. Even with unparalleled situational awareness, it is unlikely that he will commit one of those nine companies to distribution force protection. Using one of the scout companies of the RSTA squadron is completely out of the question because the entire organizational and operational concept of the brigade is based on the dominance gained over the enemy by superior intelligence obtained from the RSTA squadron.

Implementing CSS reach is a valid approach to minimizing unnecessary forward presence on the battlefield and reducing the quantity of supplies staged forward. However, reach should be accomplished above the brigade level. CSS situational understanding, total asset visibility, programmed configured loads, and throughput distribution to bypass middlemen and eliminate needless handling are all wonderful concepts for streamlining operations and improving efficiency. Nevertheless, at the "sharp end of the spear," logisticians, like warfighters, need a robust level of capability and redundancy. The new distribution-based CSS doctrine can work perfectly yet fail to be sufficient in the SBCT's environment, which is characterized by an extended, noncontiguous, unsecured battlespace. Consumption rates will likely exceed the capacities of the BSB, even when it is augmented.

The ultimate conclusion is that the structure of the SBCT is not optimized for success; it trades off optimistic assumptions about the area of operations. As currently designed, the SBCT is at too much risk of logistics failure. Accepting the need for additional organic sustainment capability with some redundancy in the BSB can mitigate that risk. The brigade needs a tenth maneuver company to provide dedicated distribution security. Otherwise, one of the infantry battalions could lose up to a third of its capability in order to provide security in a noncontiguous environment. In light of the additional security and sustainment capability they will furnish, additional personnel and vehicles are not a significant addition to the deployment dynamic.

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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Taylor, Rick W.
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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