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Restructuring the division support command.

Today's Army and the Army of the future must operate on the premise that, because it is based in the continental United States (CONUS), the Army must be able to deploy faster with a reduced logistics tail. As Joint Vision 2020 states, "The joint force, because of its flexibility and responsiveness, will remain the key to operational success in the future. Today's capabilities will become dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics and full dimensional protection."

The current division support command (DISCOM) is built around a force structure designed to fight a Cold War enemy that relied heavily on massing troops and equipment in waves in order to overwhelm U.S. forces in the European theater. With the changing threat, the current force must increase its flexibility and responsiveness and focus its logistics. To do this, the logistics force must be restructured into a smaller, increasingly multifunctional element that can maintain its lethality and deliver better information to the maneuver brigade commander.

Achieving the Vision

I believe the current visions expressed by the Chief of Staff of the Army and in Joint Vision 2020 can be supported by replacing the current DISCOM with significantly smaller logistics cells that support regimental-style brigades while increasing the logistics capabilities of the force.

The current DISCOM structure is shown below. The blue boxes represent the headquarters elements required in a typical brigade-sized organization. The yellow boxes represent organizations unique to the DISCOM--the materiel management center (MMC) and support operations office (SPO). The subordinate forward support battalions (FSBs), main support battalion (MSB), and area support battalion are not pictured.

Under my proposal, the basic organizational structure for these battalions will remain the same. However, my proposal includes changes in the DISCOM MMC and SPO and in the FSB support operations office at the maneuver brigade level. Both the DISCOM and the FSB currently have support operations staffs--a built-in redundancy. With increased communications and more effective Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS), there no longer will be a need for this redundancy. In fact, the DISCOM SPO and MMC can be eliminated under my proposal.

The chart above shows a proposed materiel and distribution management structure reconstituted at the FSB level. The yellow boxes represent the significant organizational changes. The functions of the movement control office (MCO) in the existing DISCOM SPO would be absorbed by the division transportation office (DTO) in the division G-4 with the addition of movement warrant officers assigned to the division G--4 and some augmentation. The FSB SPO would be responsible for distribution management in his area of operations and for transportation coordination in the maneuver brigade. The committal authority for divisional assets would transfer from the MCO to the DTO, which would be responsible for overall planning and coordination in the division area. A medical officer or noncommissioned officer in the FSB SPO section currently oversees the class VIII (medical materiel) requisition and casualty evacuation processes. With augmentation (one to two additional medical soldiers), the FSB support operations officer could oversee this mission.

By eliminating the DISCOM and increasing the capabilities of the SPO at the FSB level, the maneuver brigade commander will be able to tailor his force for more flexibility without deploying a huge logistics infrastructure to support his operation.

Command and Control

Transformation to a more quickly deployable force requires transformation of the command and control logistics structure. The Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) provides a prime example of the transformation in command and control that is necessary to support a more quickly deployable force.

For the SBCT to be as quickly deployable as mandated, it cannot carry the initial logistics tail that the Legacy Force does. The SBCT's structure is basically regimental, closely resembling a separate armored brigade structure. A light, tailored, and effective logistics cell is crucial for its success.

Management of all the battlefield logistics functions takes place in the supporting brigade support battalion (BSB) SPO. The BSB SPO, armed with advanced communications, real-time STAMIS, and highly trained individuals, is responsible for supporting the SBCT in its area of operations.

Can the logistics mission be accomplished as skillfully in a Legacy Force brigade as in the SBCT? I believe it can. If new information technology hardware, upgraded communications equipment, and real-time or near real-time STAMIS are used, a Legacy Force brigade can possess the same logistics prowess as the SBCT. Although the deployment timelines will be different, a similar logistics infrastructure can be used to support a heavy Legacy Force brigade.

A Lesson From the Marines

The Army is not the first service to experiment with a small logistics tail. The Marine Corps already has learned the benefits of a smaller logistics force and infrastructure. In an article in the April 1995 issue of Marines, John F. Luddy II notes--
 The CSSE [combat service support element]
 strikes a delicate balance between having enough
 Marines to perform these sustaining functions efficiently
 and responsively, without getting so large
 that it loses the inherent mobility that enables it to
 rapidly deploy. The CSSE operates on a shoestring--one
 support Marine for every three combat
 Marines. This so-called "tooth-to-tail" ratio
 keeps the MAGTF [Marine Air-Ground Task
 Force] fast, light, and lethal.

The Marines are able to maintain a small tooth-to-tail ratio because they receive offshore support from the Navy and land support from the Army after the theater develops. Although the Army's footprint will always be larger than that of the Marines, the Army can incorporate Marine lessons learned into developing doctrine.

The Army is moving away from a commodity-based logistics structure to one that is distribution based. Its ability to requisition, track, and change the destination of materiel while in transit will allow the Army to reduce the number of people it needs to manage the mountains of materiel still stocked in theaters of operations. Certain driving factors, or enablers, are required, however, for the Army to transform to a distribution-based logistics structure.

Information Technology

The largest enabler is, and will continue to be, information technology and the STAMIS with which we harness it. Most logisticians will agree that some of the STAMIS currently in use need updating. When that happens, the need for an MMC will be reduced if not nullified. Transportation systems such as the Movement Tracking System will increase the support operations officer's situational awareness and allow him to flex assets throughout the battlespace.

Sophisticated inter- and intratheater transportation systems that will allow a logistics manager, while using a single terminal in real time, to change the destination, distribution, and allocation of supplies in transit to anywhere on the battlefield probably will play the biggest role in the future of distribution-based logistics. Replacing commodity management with distribution management will mean that fewer people can do the same mission. A small logistics support structure, armed with new technology, can replace an entire management center. All of these systems will use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, so costs will be small when compared with other information technology systems.

These new distribution systems will play a crucial role. However, they must be integrated with currently fielded STAMIS, such as the Integrated Logistics Analysis Program (ILAP), Total Asset Visibility (TAV), and Joint Total Asset Visibility (JTAV). These existing systems are designed to increase asset visibility, but their usefulness is limited. For example, in-transit visibility is virtually zero with these systems. However, if the asset visibility STAMIS are integrated with the movement STAMIS, they will become an invaluable tool for managing materiel strategically, operationally, and tactically.

Other systems currently under development are the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) and the Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS). GCSS-Army offers a Web-based solution for integrating all STAMIS under one user interface, with different "modules" at various levels of the management structure. CSSCS provides detailed logistics information from multiple sources in order to provide a better analysis of the overall logistics picture from strategic to tactical levels.

Although many available STAMIS offer the support operations officer information he needs to better manage his area of operations, the Army needs to determine which STAMIS are effective and which are not. According to a recent participant in a Prairie Warrior command post exercise, "Students [using CSSCS] could see 1 1/2-hour-old unit location data down to the battalion and company levels and the known enemy location data." At first glance, the visibility of CSSCS appears adequate; however, relying on 1 1/2-hour-old data on the battlefield could be dangerous.

I am not proposing that the development of CSSCS be stopped. Nor am I arguing against its incorporation into the Army's logistics STAMIS structure. Rather, I am suggesting more careful scrutiny of existing and developing STAMIS to determine which systems will best achieve the Army's vision.


The second transformation enabler is communications. Communications will allow visibility not only throughout the theater of operations but also back to the continental United States. Without a DISCOM-level MMC, it will be critical for maneuver brigades to communicate with each other in order to cross-level supplies on the battlefield, determine maintenance requirements across their areas of responsibility, and reallocate resources as needed in real time. Without the aid of a DISCOM MMC, the support operations officer must be able to communicate with theater managers on the status of supplies coming into their theaters of operations. The SPO must have built-in communication system redundancy so that if one system fails, a backup system with virtually the same capabilities is available. Tactical satellite systems currently provide this capability, but future communication systems will add information technology functionalities that will allow better data transmission by STAMIS.

Mobile subscriber equipment, an outdated line-of-sight phone system currently in use, must be replaced because it is extremely difficult to "BLAST" [blocked asynchronous transmission] information through its communications networks. The tactical satellite (TACSAT) and mobile subscriber equipment (MSE) offer a current, fielded technology to aid communication on the battlefield, but newer, more advanced systems, such as the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTARS), are needed to bring effective communications to the battlefield.


The third enabler, modularity, is a fairly new concept that is being implemented slowly in today's logistics structure. Modularity allows logistics planners to tailor their force to better suit the mission they will support. For the support operations cell to manage its distribution assets more easily, modularity plays a significant role. Several concepts currently in testing and production phases will increase efficiency and decrease the logistics footprint.

For example, the load handling system modular fuel farm (above) will reduce significantly the time needed to set up and tear down a fuel distribution point. The authorized stockage list (ASL) mobility system (above), a system of standardized, side-opening, expandable storage containers for ASL repair parts, will reduce the logistics footprint by 60 percent.

The current DISCOM is not necessary in the chain of command. With better functioning STAMIS, increased communications ability, and modular vehicle implementation, a robust SPO in the FSB, with minimal augmentation, could take the place of a DISCOM SPO and MMC without detracting from the Army's ability to deploy rapidly, thus achieving Joint Vision 2020's goals for the Army.

Captain Christopher R. Liermann is assigned to the Directorate of Combat Developments for Quartermaster at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. He has a bachelor's degree from Montana State University and a master's degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Scout Platoon Leader's Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and the Army Logistics Management College's Logistics Executive Development Course, for which he prepared this article.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Liermann, Christopher R.
Publication:Army Logistician
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
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