FORT BRAGG, N.C. - We will build readiness in our tactical formations by better leveraging Materiel Management and Distribution Management capabilities in our sustainment units. Recent changes to home-station alignments involving Expeditionary Sustainment Commands and Sustainment Brigades offer an opportunity to dramatically improve delivery of sustainment effects at the division and corps levels.
The strategic context: The U.S. Army continues to transform and adapt. This is driven by our changing operational environment, fiscal constraints on our force, available technology, and an emphasis on improving effectiveness and efficiency. The Army Operating Concept provides a framework for use across all warfighting functions. Within the Sustainment Warfighting Function, we are charged with delivery of sustainment effects to the point of need in order to preserve freedom of movement for the maneuver commander. We maintain scalable, organic sustainment capabilities at every echelon to maximize agility. Our information systems are networked, connecting strategic enablers to tactical units to anticipate needs and provide responsiveness, reliable support.
Delivering the operational effect: Two critical tasks to deliver these effects at the operational level are materiel management and distribution management. Over the last decade, successive Total Army Analysis cycles resulted in Corps and Division headquarters losing organic capabilities, such as Materiel Management Centers (MMC) and Movement Control Centers (MCC). However, the functions performed by these organizations were not lost; they transitioned to Expeditionary Sustainment Commands (ESC) and Sustainment Brigades (SB). It is important for both sustainment and maneuver leaders to understand this transition so they can leverage the capability under the new structures. Leveraging ESCs and SBs to conduct materiel management and distribution management assists maneuver commanders in building readiness and improving their expeditionary capability.
Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna, deputy chief of staff of the Army, G4, published an insightful article on the U.S. Army Homepage in May 2015. "New Alignment Enhances Training, Planning, and Resourcing," focused on the decision to align SBs with Army divisions (Perna, 2015). There were two key learning points to emphasize in the article: (1) SBs will retain responsibility for supporting echelons-above-brigade and echelons-above-division units in their areas of responsibility; and (2) home-station relationships will not change the doctrinal employment of SBs for operations and contingencies.
Both points lead to a common conclusion; doctrinal roles and responsibilities for sustainment units are consistent whether operating in a deployed or home-station environment. Doctrine is typically written for combat and contingency scenarios, but we should apply the same doctrinal concepts at home-station in order to train as we fight. ESCs are aligned with corps headquarters while at home-station and when leveraged effectively, can optimize delivery of sustainment effects across the corps footprint. Doctrinally, ESCs operate as a forward command post to orchestrate sustainment operations and extend the operational reach of a theater support command into a joint operational area to support joint task force operations. While at home-station, ESCs should view this as extending the operational reach of the Sustainment Enterprise into the corps footprint to support the corps commander's training and operations. Maintaining a corps-wide focus enables the ESC to directly influence the building of readiness in the corps footprint while simultaneously improving the expeditionary capability of subordinate units.
Similarly, SBs maintain a robust capability to conduct both materiel management and distribution management. They have the trained professional sustainers and information systems that enable informed decision making within a division area of operations to optimize delivery of effects. SBs are organized with combat sustainment support battalions as their building blocks. While at home-station, SBs should view their area of operations as the installation and provide area support to all units operating in that footprint.
A symbiotic partnership between corps/division headquarters and their aligned sustainment unit will foster information sharing and nested priorities of effort. Networked and integrated sustainment operations will ensure maneuver commanders are armed with the right information to understand risk and mitigation options. Sustainment commanders will in turn, be able to organize sustainment operations to optimize delivery of effects in their footprint.
Training as you fight: Sustainment force structure is lean and effective. The critical tasks of materiel management and distribution management are in place, but must be better leveraged to deliver effects for headquarters at the corps and division levels. This is a function of training both our maneuver and sustainment leaders. We have spent the last fourteen years exposing the next generation of leaders to contract-based sustainment systems in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we must recognize the transformed Army, a new doctrine, and a new world order. To provide effective sustainment, we must leverage the new sustainment formations for the purpose they were designed to their maximum capacity.
Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten is the commanding general of the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 3rd ESC is aligned with XVIII Airborne Corps and serves as the sustainment integrator for the global response force. Sharpsten previously served on the Army Staff where he oversaw efforts for Army logistics doctrine and force structure design.