Joint logistics capabilities for credible deterrence

By Col. Todd S. Bertulis and Capt. Matthew A. GaumerJune 29, 2017

Joint logistics capabilities for credible deterrence
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In the European theater, the joint force faces its most dynamic global security environment since World War II. Political volatility and economic unpredictability are now intensified by transregional, multidomain threats. The joint logistics enterprise (JLEnt) is playing a role in delivering the capabilities needed to provide credible deterrence in support of the NATO alliance.

The U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Logistics Directorate (ECJ4), other EUCOM directorates, NATO allies and partners, and the JLEnt are effecting an unprecedented security transformation. They are transitioning from being focused on assurance through engagement to being a warfighting command postured for deterrence and defense.

The entire JLEnt is working together in shaping logistics strategies, supporting NATO allies and partners, and setting the European theater to enable credible deterrence. It has already delivered results by playing a critical role in supporting the implementation of the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

EUCOM is supporting ERI implementation by operationalizing Army pre-positioned stocks, synchronizing the deployments of continental U.S.-based rotational brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades, making multibillion-dollar investments for joint reception, staging, onward, and integration (JRSOI) operations, and providing logistics support for NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics.

The ECJ4, in concert with Joint Staff J-4, is also implementing cyber resiliency initiatives, providing assessments of service component logistics operations, capturing lessons learned from rotating logistics units, adding realism to exercises, and initiating logistics risk assessments and communications.


In response to the new European security environment, ERI was developed to address theater vulnerabilities. The initiative signals to European allies and partners that the United States is committed to the security and stability of the theater.

Since 2014, ERI funds have supported NATO assurance and Russian deterrence along the following five lines of effort laid out by the Department of Defense: enabling the U.S. presence, enhancing multinational training and exercises, improving infrastructure, pre-positioning equipment, and building partner capacity.

A key point of interest for logisticians about the ERI is its joint logistics undercurrents: unity of effort, joint logistics environment visibility, and rapid and precise response. Since 2015, a regimen of multinational exercises have revealed opportunities to gain logistics efficiencies. Some of the early activities included establishing armored European activity sets to provide training platforms for heel-to-toe rotating armored brigade combat teams and validating the throughput capability of key sea and aerial ports.

EUCOM has focused on high-visibility multinational operations and exercises in order to provide maximum deterrence. For example, U.S. Naval Forces Europe supported Exercise Baltic Operations with combined-joint forced liminal landing and expanded maritime patrols in the Black Sea. Additionally, U.S. Marine Forces Europe used Exercise Cold Response as a learning campaign to insert and sustain a permanent contingent of Marines in Norway. This enhanced the robustness of Black Sea Rotational Force training.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe enlarged its role in the Baltic Air Policing program, while U.S. Army Europe undertook its most significant land-based exercises since the end of the Cold War: Dragoon Ride, Swift Response 15, Saber Strike 15, Trident Juncture 15, and Anakonda 16. These exercises provided lessons about the coordination and movement of forces throughout the theater.

Analyses of lessons learned from these multinational exercises and continuous joint operations have enabled the ECJ4 to establish a framework prioritizing efforts to further set the theater. These five categories are now articulated in the new EUCOM Mobility Strategy:

• Joint command, control, and coordination.

• Joint access.

• U.S. organic capability.

• Infrastructure.

• European partner commercial capacity.


The effectiveness of the U.S. logistics capability starts internally. The most significant operational challenges in the European theater are to streamline communications, enhance visibility, and synchronize planning and operations. At the strategic level, Exercise Austere Challenge 2015 and 2017 demonstrated the need to integrate visibility and the flow of information between the EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and the service component headquarters scattered throughout Europe.

Control of joint logistics and support of joint operations are critical in accomplishing the combatant commander's operational objectives and desired outcomes. Joint Publication 4-0, Joint Logistics, encapsulates the importance of this point succinctly when it says that the combatant commander "exercises effective control of joint force logistics by fusing procedures and processes to provide visibility and control over the logistics environment, and integrating joint logistics planning with operations planning."

Successful combat support in the future relies on revolutionizing information integration across the defense enterprise and JLEnt. This includes integrating unity of effort horizontally across business processes at the geographic combatant command and service component headquarters, vertically to trace units and combat support regional offices, and diagonally to supporting geographic combatant commands, functional combatant commands, service headquarters, the Joint Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The JLEnt continues to pursue a global common operational picture for multiple and interconnected theaters in order to provide agile solutions and enable flexible actions.


Intratheater mobility is critically important for a theater as complex as the one in Europe. With 54 sovereign nation boundaries in the EUCOM area of responsibility, plus the European Union's own set of requirements, logisticians must contend with access, movement, and sustainment regulations similar to those in the United States, with its overlapping city, county, state, and federal regulations.

This must be taken into account when planning and executing important logistics operations such as ordnance storage, unit movements, acquisition and cross-serving agreements, customs clearances, multimodal connections, road and rail variations, and aerial port and seaport management.

What EUCOM is seeking in its mobility strategy is greater freedom of assembly and movement, where the joint force and NATO allies can quickly move to and through the theater. This would optimize force assembly, movement, integration, and sustainment.

Authorizations for commercial airlift, sealift, and surface transport for the joint force are regulated by separate regulatory tracks. Modifying authorizations to synchronize them with surface movement legislation and governing policies would create significant flexibility in chartering multidomain, intratheater movements that could be directed by a single command.

Resolving logistics access in Europe also requires standardizing the movement of the joint force and developing a resilient and validated hub-and-spoke distribution capability to support JRSOI, force projection, and sustainment of an ancillary network of multimodal sea and aerial ports of debarkation to augment host-nation bases.

Creating redundancy creates resiliency for the joint logistics community. Additional concerted efforts by EUCOM headquarters, NATO agencies, and EUCOM's service components are driving solutions by expanding beyond legacy best practices.

These initiatives include a geographic combatant command-level mobility working group (battle rhythm), development of a long-range theater mobility vision, mobility-focused tabletop exercises, logistics infrastructure data sharing between NATO logistics partners, a broad-spectrum analysis program to assess theater mobility capacity, and bolstered NATO-European Union coordination of movement and distribution policies in the theater.


By fiscal year 2017, ERI funds were supporting deterrence activities. Building U.S. and NATO logistics resilience by investing in organic capabilities is key to deterrence. To achieve this, each EUCOM service component receives funding to enhance niche logistics support and strengthen interoperability.

The services are also improving organic capability by pre-positioning assets in theater. The Army is investing $1.5 billion in pre-positioned materiel. The Navy is not only undertaking improvements to its multimodal facilities at Rota, Spain, and Souda Bay, Greece, but it is also ensuring all U.S. services and NATO allies can use the facilities to support multinational operations.

Also, the Navy is set to provide an increased presence by flying P-8A Poseidon aircraft, with improved support capabilities, out of Iceland's Keflavik International Airport. This will provide Iceland with a critical anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom maritime gap.

The Marine Corps is modernizing its pre-positioned program in Norway to ensure that stockage levels are adequate and that its newly established detachment based there is able to maintain a high state of readiness.

By developing munitions storage sites for the first time in decades, the Air Force is aggressively upgrading enduring bases. At the same time, it is enlarging NATO's aerial port network to accommodate more diverse fighter and mobility aircraft and its own pre-positioned stocks. This effort requires a substantial buildup of aircraft hangars, bulk fuel storage facilities, and pipelines and the modernization of flight lines, runways, and parking aprons.

Throughout fiscal year 2017, 28 joint and multinational exercises in 40 European countries, the buildup of four NATO Enhanced Forward Presence multinational battlegroups in the Baltics, and overlapping deployments of rotating armored brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades will test, validate, and offer proof of principle for these infrastructure and organic capability investments.


Despite the logistics breadth of the ERI, no dollar amount can completely set the European theater for a high-throughput contingency. A key takeaway from Anakonda 16 is that the United States and its NATO allies and partners must lean on commercial firms to help deliver a full spectrum of logistics support to the warfighter. This logistics support includes maintenance, supply, field services (base operating support), transmodal and multimodal transportation, distribution, operational contract support, and general engineering support.

Commercial logistics companies have a vested interest in teaming with the joint force because the globalized economy depends on political stability. In late 2016, the commanding generals of U.S. Army Europe and the 21st Theater Sustainment Command initiated a new level of open communication with the largest rail provider in Europe and second largest transport company in the world. The intent of this communication is to strengthen partnerships to hasten speed of assembly in the European theater.

Paired with a mature transportation network, the joint force and NATO partners can enhance readiness and asset availability through closer integration and interoperability with host-nation logistics firms.

The ECJ4 and the Joint Staff J-4 are pursuing an initiative that is making the European theater a testing ground for the mapping of key cyber terrain. This program seeks insights into resiliency of the intratheater transportation network based on analysis of the cyber and critical infrastructure nexus.

The JLEnt's impact on land, sea, and air domains has been noteworthy, especially in the progress made by key partners such as the Army Materiel Command, its Research, Development and Engineering Command, and the 21st Theater Sustainment Command.

EUCOM has been particularly successful through a closer partnership with the Army Materiel Command. This has borne fruit most clearly in Army pre-positioned stock management, which is now transforming to enable speed of assembly by suppling more secondary items for warfighters and ensuring a "fight tonight" capability for an array of contingencies.

European security and global stability depend on the success of a joint force that is supported by a first-rate JLEnt. Just as logistics innovation is best ensured through JLEnt synergy, the defense of NATO allies and Europe as a whole is best undertaken through genuine unity of effort. While the sheer size of such an integrated approach is a challenge, teamwork within the JLEnt makes credible deterrence possible.


Col. Todd S. Bertulis is the deputy director of logistics, ECJ4, in Stuttgart. He holds a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University, a master's degree in logistics management from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a master's degree in National Resource Strategy from the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff Officer Course, and Senior Service College at the Eisenhower School.

Capt. Matthew A. Gaumer is a defense strategy analyst for the Russia Strategic Initiative, EUCOM. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, a master's degree in theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, an advanced master's degree in theology from the University of Leuven, a master's degree in transportation and logistics management from American Military University, and doctorate degrees in history and sacred theology from the University of Leuven. He is a demonstrated master logistician and a graduate of the Transportation Basic Officer Leader Course and Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.


This article was published in the July-August 2017 issue of Army Sustainment magazine.

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