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The Quartermaster Corps - Embracing Logistics Transformation

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Christine J. Myers
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin
Spring 2003

Four of these Class IV modules will become the "building blocks" for one future configured load

Christine J. Myers is a Certified Professional Logistician serving as a Logistics Management Specialist in the Concepts Division, Directorate of Combat Developments for Quartermaster, US Army Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia.  Of her 20 years of government service, 16 years have been in the Combat Service Support discipline, which includes assignments in materiel development, force integration, and most recently concepts development.  Ms. Myers spent six and a half years in Germany where she earned her Master of Science Degree in Business Administration through Boston University.  She is a graduate of the Army Management Staff College and also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an Associates Degree in Accounting from the University of Maryland.  Among her many projects, Ms. Myers is working on integrating Configured Loads into the current and future distribution systems. 

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The Quartermaster Corps - Embracing Logistics Transformation

As you step into the future battle space, it will take a few moments to orient yourself. Some things will look familiar, but other things will make you feel as if you stepped right onto the production stage of a Steven Spielberg movie! The whirr of electrons is in the air, sending and receiving information in all directions via satellite, radio, computers or hand-held devices. The command center looks like the "bridge" of the Starship Enterprise, with computers and screens providing a clear picture of the battlefield. Everything around you is happening fast. You notice that even though there are fewer support units forward, maneuver replenishment appears to occur smoothly, almost automatically. Support vehicles on the ground and in the air are moving out quickly with mission and focus, synchronized and rhythmic. Some are manned, some are not.

In the future battle space, vehicle and weapons platforms are smaller and sleeker with greater reliability, better fuel economy, and even on-board water-generation capability. Embedded prognostics and diagnostics perpetually communicate component status and maintenance and support requirements to rear support bases, as well as to Quartermaster soldiers along the entire distribution pipeline. This information contributes to a logistical common operating picture (COP). Together with the operational COP, the logistical COP will enable commanders and Quartermasters to jointly plan for generating and sustaining combat power through pulsed sustainment, matching the warfighter's battle rhythm.

And would you check out those uniforms! These adaptive camouflage uniforms are lightweight; highly durable; fire and ballistic protective; wired with communication and nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) warning devices; equipped with health and nutrient sensors; and designed to maintain a constant external body temperature. The attachable, ballistic, protective headgear enables two-way communication. The headgear, compatible with NBC filters and gas masks, has a built-in translator, infrared telemetry and night vision. These uniforms can be fastened tightly to provide a closed, protective environment for future soldiers - still the Army's most precious resource in the future battle space.

Both the future battle space and how the Army engages in battle are changing. The Chief of Staff, Army has directed Army Transformation into an Objective Force to meet the goals of achieving strategic responsiveness and full spectrum dominance in support of the geographic combatant commanders.

This lethal and rapidly responsive force must be sustained in a pulsed, rapid, precise and efficient manner by an equally responsive distribution-based logistics network. Streamlining logistics capabilities and eliminating redundant capabilities in the Objective Force design makes the distribution system critical for generating and sustaining combat power by providing effective sustainment support to the warfighter. The Quartermaster Corps will lead the way by transitioning the distribution pipeline for providing materiel and services to meet the challenges of Army Transformation.

The future distribution pipeline still will consist of two segments: strategic and theater. From a global perspective, Quartermaster combat developers will collaborate with Army and joint organizations to meld the strategic and theater segments into a seamless distribution system. Transmitting, receiving and analyzing historical and real-time information are crucial to achieving this seamless system. From the warfighter's perspective, Quartermasters will continue to refine the art of replenishment by developing and implementing new distribution doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities solutions. This will require thinking not in terms of proponent "stovepipe" networks, but in terms of integrating distribution functions orchestrated by a single theater distribution manager through a distribution management system.

Distribution management is the commander's tool for applying situational understanding, from both the operational and logistical COPs, in order to dynamically control and synchronize the flow of materiel through the distribution pipeline - including forward, lateral and retrograde flow. The transformation of distribution management embraces the synchronization of myriad functions into one seamless distribution-based logistics system that must be fully defined, developed and communicated to the Army and joint communities. To be effective and efficient, distribution management must exercise dynamic control over both the movement of the assets in theater and the visibility and accountability of the assets themselves. Institutional boundaries are becoming blurred as Quartermasters transition into the future. What remains constant for the current Legacy Force to the future Objective Force is the requirement to provide precise and timely materiel support to the warfighter, a fundamental and enduring Quartermaster mission.

Timely materiel support and precision are two key metrics that will help define the future distribution pipeline. The first metric, "timely materiel support," relates to the arrival of required replenishment when needed to sustain combat power. Management of information is paramount for achieving time definite delivery (TDD). Interpretation and application of information through a combination of forecasting methods and the use of decision support tools to process real-time information will shorten the requirements identification process. Exercising dynamic control over both the materiel and transportation assets will ensure delivery according to the commander's priorities. The second metric for the future distribution pipeline, "precision," encompasses delivering the right stuff, in the right quantity, at the right place. These criteria are also met through the optimal use of the logistical COP and information networks.

Together, timely materiel support and precision will dictate where supply loads will be configured, what on-hand stocks are required, how these loads will be delivered, and where supply units will be positioned in theater and within the continental US and outside the continental US (CONUS/OCONUS). As the Army continues to refine future warfighting concepts, the Quartermaster Corps will transform to meet evolving maneuver sustainment requirements.

The configured loads (CL) process, included in the Army Transformation Campaign Plan as a key distribution enabler, is being intensely developed through an Integrated Process Team (IPT) led by the Army G4 (Army Chief of Staff, Logistics). The Directorate of Combat Developments for Quartermaster (DCD-QM) at Fort Lee, VA, has been a key player. The DCD-QM is the proponent for the Distribution-Based Logistics Configured Loads Concept Battle Book (Coordinating Draft, 31 Jul 02), which provides information, guidance and instructions to the Army and joint logistics communities in the development and execution of CLs. The battle book, which includes specific annexes by class of supply, is intended to facilitate the ordering and distribution of supplies across the full spectrum of military operations.

The CLs, defined as "loads of supplies built to anticipated or actual needs and intended for maximum throughput with minimal reconfiguration," will transform the distribution process by minimizing handling, reducing the logistics footprint, and physically speeding the flow of supplies to the consumer. These efficiencies will result from standardizing and tailoring the CL building blocks, as well as building CLs as far to the rear as practicable and throughputting as far forward as battalion level with minimal reconfiguration. The US Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) and the US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command's Army Research, Development, and Evaluation Center (TACOM ARDEC) are developing an automated CL building tool. This tool will speed and standardize the load configuration process, optimizing and balancing loads on conveyances. CLs will become an integral part of the replenishment process and will be transformed and refined to meet future warfighter requirements.

Using a CL-building tool, configuring and reconfiguring loads, and performing other new distribution functions will require changes to how Quartermasters and other soldiers with military occupational specialties in combat service support are employed within a future distribution-based logistics system. To begin this paradigm shift and to teach supply distribution management skills, the US Army Quartermaster Center and School at Fort Lee is establishing a Distribution Management Training Facility. This facility will have a training and simulation laboratory for resolving scenario-based distribution challenges. Distribution management training will be incorporated into selected courses for officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers. The establishment of a facility solely geared to training distribution management marks the beginning of a new era for the Quartermaster Corps in transforming institutional training to meet the challenges of a future distribution-based logistics system.

The Quartermaster Corps of the future will maintain the legacy of providing unfailing sustainment support to the warfighter. Quartermasters will continue to spearhead the development of new technologies, methodologies and collaborative efforts among Army, joint forces and industry partners and also embrace change to meet future logistic challenges. Quartermasters will fulfill their mission to support the needs of the warfighter by "hearing the call" and actively participating in Army Transformation toward an Objective Force.

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