By Col. Curtis A. Johnson and Lt. Col. Donovan FuquaJanuary 13, 2014
As the Army transitions from focused readiness for long-term operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to a state of general readiness and regional alignment for future operations, it is challenged to maximize Soldier capabilities instead of relying on contracted labor and contingency funding.
One part of this transition is reestablishing sustainment oversight of rear operations by senior logistics headquarters and creating a common operational picture of logistics for tenant units requiring support.
To create this capability, in April 2012 Forces Command (FORSCOM) directed its senior commanders to create sustainment mission command centers (SMCCs). Since then, the FORSCOM G-4 has enabled synchronization and collaboration among the SMCCs to create and operationalize this concept.
FORT BLISS SMCC
Through guidance and emphasis from the Fort Bliss, Texas, senior mission commander and the 1st Armored Division commander, the 15th Sustainment Brigade took the lead at Fort Bliss in establishing, manning, and equipping the SMCC.
To do this, the brigade coordinated with the Fort Bliss logistics community, which includes the Army Field Support Battalion-Bliss, the Fort Bliss Directorate of Logistics (DOL), the Mission Support Element G-4, the 1st Armored Division G-4, Defense Logistics Agency representatives, brigade combat team (BCT) S-4s, brigade support battalions (BSBs), and other key teammates.
The Fort Bliss SMCC is intended to serve as the one-stop shop for the sustainment of rear operations using the principles of mission command found in Army Doctrine Publication 6-0, Mission Command.
This article addresses some of the challenges and opportunities that Fort Bliss experienced while creating and operating the SMCC. Fort Bliss created an SMCC tailored to its operational environment to respond to several problems, including gaps in echelons-above-brigade (EAB) support at the sustainment brigade level, a high operating tempo in First Army's deployment training, funding shortfalls at the DOL, and friction caused by half the installation using Global Combat Support System-Army and the other half using legacy Standard Army Management Information Systems.
Although every installation's SMCC will be designed for its own challenges, the following lessons learned serve as a possible template for creating and leveraging capabilities, maximizing opportunities for leader development and training in the rear area, and communicating a logistics common operational picture (LCOP).
SMCC PURPOSE AND LINES OF EFFORT
Unlike most FORSCOM installations, Fort Bliss does not have EAB maintenance or supply companies in its sustainment brigade. In the past, the Fort Bliss DOL was funded and able to provide area support maintenance and supply support activity (SSA) support to non-BCT tenants.
Because the Army has realigned to rely on organic Soldier labor as the primary means for rear operations support, Fort Bliss needed to look at ways to leverage dedicated sustainment capabilities in BSBs and forward support companies without creating a distraction from BCT training.
The SMCC also had to account for the installation's large size and the heavy deployment training requirements of the 1st Armored Division, First Army tenant units, FORSCOM separates and the Training and Doctrine Command Network Integration Exercise program run by the Brigade Modernization Command and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Before 2013, First Army and other tenants could use predeployment training equipment (PDTE) to prepare for deployments. Because of FORSCOM's divestiture of common modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE) equipment from the PDTE program, Fort Bliss has turned in equipment such as retail fuelers, cargo trucks, materials-handling equipment, and maintenance contact trucks that First Army relied on to support predeployment training. The potential risk for failing to support the First Army mission at Fort Bliss is missed deployment timelines for Army Reserve and National Guard units.
These pressures and the need to ensure that all tenants efficiently manage resources and fully use free issue, referrals, and other cost-saving measures are why the FORSCOM SMCC concept was a perfect fit for Fort Bliss. The SMCC is responsible for planning, preparing, coordinating, executing, and assessing sustainment operations at Fort Bliss and the surrounding area by providing staff supervision of sustainment operations and distribution management.
The SMCC operates in four lines of effort: having EAB and red cycle tasking authority, being the custodian for the Fort Bliss LCOP, synchronizing logistics among stakeholders, and creating opportunities for training and leader development.
RED CYCLE AND EAB TASKING AUTHORITY
Because of the enduring sustainment mission at Fort Bliss and the potential impacts of failing to support First Army, the 1st Armored Division G-3 granted the SMCC the tasking authority of the red cycle BCT's support battalion. The SMCC also maintains tasking authority of assigned Fort Bliss EAB units, including the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB).
As required by 1st Armored Division mission orders, the red cycle BCT's BSB maintains a liaison officer within the SMCC to receive and analyze logistics support requests. Using the Fort Bliss SharePoint portal, the SMCC receives sustainment requests from units and tenants and leverages the capabilities of all key sustainment entities on post to resource or recommend solutions to fill those requests.
The red cycle tasking authority has succeeded thanks to the guidance and emphasis of the 1st Armored Division commanding general, buy-in from the supporting units, common understanding of the importance of the missions, and transparency of the tasking process and business rules. All logistics requests are posted on the shared Fort Bliss portal, briefed during the daily 1st Armored Division command update, and sent to all stakeholders daily with updates. At the end of a mission, the supporting unit posts a storyboard to the portal and to the 1st Armored Division command update.
In order to assist both supporting and supported units, the SMCC created a set of business rules to create transparency and trust. First, supported units must provide a completed support request form at least four business days prior to the start of the mission. Second, the supporting unit liaison routes all requests through the portal to the BSB or CSSB support operations officer (SPO). Finally, all requests and accepted tasks are tracked through the portal until completion.
To fully execute taskings and not negatively affect BCT training, the SMCC is linked with the 1st Armored Division's division operations center (DOC) through the 15th Sustainment Brigade organic MTOE battle command systems and to subordinate units and teammates through liaisons and representatives.
The SMCC participates in 1st Armored Division daily command updates through an embedded liaison and through a Command Post of the Future bridge to the DOC. The SMCC maintains situational awareness with the DOC by displaying the 1st Armored Division dashboard through Defense Connect Online on a projector screen.
To gain additional capabilities beyond Fort Bliss, the 15th Sustainment Brigade and the SMCC works with a senior logistics mentor command, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide guidance and support through the Leveraging Sustainment Organizations in the Continental United States (CONUS)-West (LSOC-W) concept.
In the past year, the SMCC gained support from the LSOC-W by using a rough-terrain container handler mobile training team from Fort Lewis, Wash., and a maintenance support team from Fort Hood. Fort Bliss supported the LSOC-W by providing a team of mechanics to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, for 30 days.
As the senior sustainment integrator for Fort Bliss, the SMCC is the main conduit for communication among units, installation logistics teammates, and representatives from national-level logistics providers. Additionally, the SMCC supports the 1st Armored Division deputy commanding general for support by leading operational planning teams to spearhead logistics initiatives.
CUSTODIAN FOR THE FORT BLISS LCOP
The SMCC provides real-time mission command and staff supervision of sustainment operations, distribution management execution, and assessment of sustainment operations at Fort Bliss and in the surrounding area through the Command Post of the Future, Battle Command Support and Sustainment System, and Blue Force Tracker.
Liaisons and representatives serve as the critical links among the 1st Armored Division headquarters, BCTs, BSB staffs, and tenants to plan, prepare, coordinate, and assess sustainment operations in the Fort Bliss area. Through this collaborative environment, the SMCC provides mission command and staff supervision of sustainment operations and distribution management for all EAB units and direction, coordination, and oversight of all sustainment units.
Through a weekly sustainment synchronization working group, a monthly review and assessment, and a semiannual sustainment conference, the SMCC brings all Fort Bliss logistics teammates into a continual dialog on how best and most efficiently to support rear operations.
The SMCC provides materiel readiness oversight for divisional units and separates located at Fort Bliss and at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The 15th Sustainment Brigade conducts many support functions through its staff management processes and through subordinate unit capabilities.
The brigade SPO and SMCC applies capabilities according to the 1st Armored Division commanding general's guidance and the sustainment brigade commander's support priorities and also through troops-to-task management. Support is allocated to meet three main efforts: Army Force Generation, 1st Armored Division and tenant training, and Fort Bliss support activities.
A key component of SMCC and brigade SPO support to rear operations is the SMCC's role as the routing identifier code-geographic (RIC-GEO) manager. The SPO and SMCC monitor and assist subordinate SSAs and units in providing effective and timely logistics support for all units at Fort Bliss. The specific goal of the RIC-GEO section is to enforce Army performance standards and objectives at management levels without compromising operational readiness.
The manager review file process gives a manager the means to correct, approve, or reject transactions not processed by the system based on control degrees for restricted items, bad or obsolete national stock numbers, and funds based on resource management guidance for review.
The 15th Sustainment Brigade RIC-GEO and 1st Armored Division resource managers have visibility of all requisitions that are processed through automated systems such as the Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced, Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced, and Unit Level Logistics System-Aviation Enhanced. The one exception to this is aircraft on ground, which is a direct call-in function to Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
The 15th Sustainment Brigade RIC-GEO provides support to authorized stockage list (ASL) review boards for installation SSAs. The RIC-GEO or the accountable officer coordinates with the expert ASL team (from the Army Sustainment Command) and installation supply representative to initiate the ASL review file with enhanced dollar cost banding.
The SMCC works directly with tenant transportation managers and the division transportation officer in order to assist with asset visibility, task EAB common-user land transportation systems, and provide a Soldier workforce for the Army airfield.
Requested transportation movement and logistics support requests are tracked on one of the front projected displays within the SMCC and on the Fort Bliss portal. The SMCC maintains connectivity with the U.S. Transportation Command Single Mobility System to assist units with tracking aircraft and cargo movements worldwide.
To ensure adherence to repairable equipment field maintenance procedures, the 15th Sustainment Brigade SPO and the SMCC are the approving and oversight authorities for pass-back. When a unit's field maintenance capabilities do not meet appropriate pass-back criteria (such as being able to complete scheduled services), the responsibility may be transferred to the DOL, but all funding to perform the maintenance and provide the repair parts is the unit's responsibility. This cost-savings measure allows the SMCC to assist the DOL and Army field support battalion with their shop workloads and to work with units that have maintenance concerns.
TRAINING AND LEADER DEVELOPMENT
A key component of the SMCC is the ability to execute mission command in rear operations the same way units do in a forward deployed theater. Because the 1st Armored Division is now regionally aligned to the U.S. Central Command region, its units and staffs need to be able to seamlessly transition between rear and forward area operations.
This coordination is accomplished through training units and leaders to execute the same business processes and systems regardless of the physical location. For example, information management (SharePoint) and knowledge management (business processes, lessons learned, procedures) are exportable to any forward area.
Through the red cycle process, the SMCC routinely engages junior leaders to analyze requirements and look for efficiencies in supporting Fort Bliss tenants. Special projects such as the PDTE relocation concurrently train logistics staffs on mission analysis and the military decisionmaking process.
Finally, the physical layout of the SMCC is the same as the 15th Sustainment Brigade's deployable brigade operations center. This layout allows the brigade staff to train using the same systems that will be used during deployment.
The following are best practices for Fort Bliss and may not be applicable at all installations. However, they have been crucial for the success of the Fort Bliss SMCC.
• Co-locate the sustainment brigade operations center with the SMCC to ensure that the sustainment brigade staff is fully employed in rear operations support activities.
• Formally authorize red cycle tasking authority to the SMCC through mission orders from the tenant command's G-3.
• Fully engage with all logistics stakeholders regularly through periodic synchronization meetings, reviews and assessments, and conferences.
• Integrate the senior commander's operations center with the SMCC through battle command systems and ensure the LCOP is visible and regularly updated for the senior commander.
The SMCC has been value added for both Fort Bliss and the 15th Sustainment Brigade in three ways. First, by dedicating a team for Fort Bliss support, the sustainment brigade staff has trained and prepared for deployment while assisting the 1st Armored Division with the U.S. Central Command regional alignment.
Second, executing support missions has allowed supporting units to maintain common logistics task skills. Finally, by depending on other units to provide support, Fort Bliss has built a trusted team of logisticians who look for collaborative solutions to sustainment issues during a time of fiscal uncertainty.
Col. Curtis A. Johnson is the commander of the 15th Sustainment Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Central Michigan University and a master's degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College.
Lt. Col. Donovan Fuqua is the commander of the 831st Transportation Battalion and recently served as the Support Operations Officer of the 15th Sustainment Brigade. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course, Combined Logistics Advanced Course, Air Command and Staff College, and School of Advanced Military Studies.
This article was published in the January-February 2014 issue of Army Sustainment magazine.