By Maj. Gen. Flem B. "Donnie" Walker Jr., Col. Mike Egan, and Maj. Keith M. KacmarSeptember 5, 2017
"Setting the theater is the most important line of effort for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Set the theater links current operations and future plans with the sustainment enterprise to ensure the TSC is postured to meet all U.S. Army Central sustainment requirements across the full range of military operations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility."
--Maj. Gen. Flem B. "Donnie" Walker Jr., 1st Theater Sustainment Command
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) is arguably one of the U.S. military's most complex operational environments. It encompasses more than 4 million square miles stretching across the Middle East from Northeast Africa to Central and South Asia. It is home to 550 million people who belong to multiple religions, speak multiple languages with hundreds of dialects, and identify with cultures that often create adversarial relationships among neighboring states.
This regional complexity poses significant challenges for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC). Therefore, it is imperative that the command's logisticians execute a deliberate process for setting the theater. The process must provide a thorough understanding of the theater's capabilities and shortfalls, including both infrastructure and political realities.
The TSC must also have a method to measure progress on key objectives and develop ways to mitigate risk. Ultimately, set the theater operations support the maneuver plan and, when executed using a defined framework, allow maximum flexibility for the combatant commander.
THE 1st TSC's PROCESS
Setting the theater is an Army core competency. It consists of the operations and actions that organizations execute during phase 0 (shape) of the joint phasing model. Phase 0 actions establish and maintain favorable conditions for conducting military operations in follow-on phases. These actions are necessary to deter conflict, and if deterrence fails, they enable the joint force to seize the initiative, protect the force, and restrict enemy freedom of action.
To support U.S. Army Central's (ARCENT's) efforts to set the theater, the 1st TSC developed this four-step methodology based on the Army operations process:
• Identify sustainment requirements for current operations and contingency plans.
• Assess current and projected capabilities in order to identify gaps and risk.
• Plan operations and actions that mitigate risk.
• Execute the operations through the orders process and mission command.
By employing this method, the 1st TSC planned and executed several significant set-the-theater operations and actions across the CENTCOM AOR. This process is a way for the TSC to contribute to setting the theater and provides an example for TSCs in other combatant command AORs.
The first step in the 1st TSC's set-the-theater process is identifying sustainment requirements for current operations and contingency plans. To identify these requirements, the 1st TSC develops concepts of support, validates the concepts through rehearsal of concept (ROC) drills, and organizes valid requirements into logical categories.
The primary sources for sustainment requirements are the concepts of support for current operations and contingency plans. The support operations distribution management center, human resources support center, and financial management support center produce these concepts in coordination with the G-5 plans section.
Each concept lays out sustainment requirements, available sustainment capabilities, and the way the TSC will employ each capability to meet the requirements of the operation. Once these concepts are developed and completed, the TSC must validate them through ROC drills.
The ROC drills typically focus on a particular operation and include key stakeholders from all major commands in the theater and strategic partners within the sustainment enterprise. The intent of these drills is to validate the current concepts of sustainment and develop assumptions about the future theater posture and sustainment plans for a three- to five-year time frame.
After the ROC drills, the 1st TSC organizes the validated requirements from each concept into five categories for assessment. The 1st TSC categorizes sustainment requirements and capabilities using the four theater posture elements found in Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Operation Planning, which are forces, footprint, materiel, and agreements. Operational contract support is the fifth category.
Each category has an office primarily responsible (OPR) that tracks validated sustainment requirements and capabilities across all of the concepts of support to facilitate the assessment process.
ASSESSING CURRENT CAPABILITIES
The next step in the set-the-theater process is assessing current and projected theater sustainment capabilities against requirements in order to identify gaps and risks. To perform this assessment, the 1st TSC conducts an assessments working group and presents an assessment briefing. The biweekly assessments working group is the core of the assessment process. The G-5 plans section chairs it and all OPRs attend.
Each OPR develops a set of objective metrics to assess capabilities versus requirements within its particular category. These metrics, along with current and projected sustainment requirements and capabilities, form the inputs to the working group.
During the working group, the OPRs determine capability gaps and develop a narrative to articulate risks to the mission and force. The output of this working group forms the basis for the assessment briefing.
The OPRs present their assessments to the 1st TSC's commanding general (CG) during a formal briefing in the first month of each quarter. Each OPR is responsible for briefing the key changes from the previous assessment along with the outputs from the working groups.
With this briefing, the CG can combine objective data with his own observations and experience, make decisions about risks, and provide his intent for mitigating risks. The guidance from this briefing provides the input required to plan risk mitigation operations and actions.
The third step in the process is developing plans for operations and actions that mitigate risk. To conduct this planning, the 1st TSC executes a plans working group and a decision briefing. The G-5 plans section again chairs the biweekly plans working group and all OPRs attend.
Each OPR analyzes the gaps and risk presented during the assessment briefing along with the CG's guidance and then develops a "get well" plan of actions and milestones (POAM) for its respective category. The POAM articulates how the proposed operations and actions will address gaps and risks, required resources, and key intermediate objectives over time.
During the working group, the OPRs synchronize their POAMs with each other and with current operations to produce a consolidated set-the-theater synchronization matrix. The output from this working group forms the input for the decision briefing.
The OPRs propose their POAMs to the CG during a formal decision briefing in the second month of each quarter. This briefing gives the CG the opportunity to accept, modify, or reject the plans and to issue additional guidance.
Following the decision briefing, the OPRs modify the plans if necessary and publish a quarterly set-the-theater fragmentary order to the 1st TSC's base operations order. The fragmentary order provides the direction that is necessary for the 1st TSC staff and subordinate units to execute set-the-theater operations and actions.
EXECUTE ORDERS AND MISSION COMMAND
The final step in the process is executing set-the-theater orders through mission command. Because the 1st TSC main command post is located at Fort Knox, Kentucky, time and distance force the command to rely on an operational command post (OCP) at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, to execute set-the-theater activities.
The TSC is not doctrinally structured to provide long-term forward mission command to both tactical and operational sustainment operations. So, a forward deployed expeditionary sustainment command augmented by a 1st TSC plans cell forms the OCP. This hybrid structure allows the OCP to focus on executing the tactical and low-level operational tasks of setting the theater and permits the main command post to focus on high-level operational and strategic tasks.
While this structure requires clearly delineated roles and responsibilities, it allows the 1st TSC to execute set-the-theater operations throughout the levels of war. As these operations and actions progress, the 1st TSC continually reassesses its effects to provide feedback into the set-the-theater process.
SETTING THE CENTCOM THEATER
This process has enabled the 1st TSC to contribute to setting the theater in several significant ways. The 1st TSC has improved distribution networks, increased sustainment capabilities supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), modernized theater-provided equipment (TPE), and redistributed munitions stocks.
DISTRIBUTION NETWORK IMPROVEMENT. The 1st TSC's region of the CENTCOM AOR did not have an integrated distribution network similar to the Northern Distribution Network, which supported operations in Afghanistan. As a result, the 1st TSC saw significant delays in the joint reception, staging, and onward movement (JRSO) of personnel and equipment from ports of debarkation to forward operating locations.
To address this issue, the 1st TSC, in coordination with ARCENT and CENTCOM, focused on improving of the Trans-Arabian Network in order to increase ports of debarkation and distribution routes to provide flexibility in support of JRSO.
To achieve this effect, the 1st TSC worked through the ARCENT theater security cooperation program to increase infrastructure capacity and address customs challenges through the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The 1st TSC also partnered with CENTCOM to integrate the CENTCOM Deployment and Distribution Operations Center with the OCP Transportation Operations Branch to streamline distribution management between service component commands.
OIR SUSTAINMENT. The set-the-theater process contributed to an increase of sustainment capabilities in support of OIR. The rapid increase in OIR sustainment requirements and support to Iraqi and Syrian defense forces required the 1st TSC to shift sustainment forces from Operation Spartan Shield (OSS) to OIR. This reduced sustainment capability in support of OSS.
To address this issue, the 1st TSC worked with Combined Joint Task Force-OIR to submit requests for additional sustainment forces. Because of this coordination, the 1st TSC was able to improve support to OIR and return sustainment capability to OSS.
TPE MODERNIZATION. For years, units that deployed to the CENTCOM AOR have relied on TPE to reduce the demand on strategic lift assets. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the atrophy of institutional knowledge about deploying units and conducting JRSO with full modified table of organization and equipment allowances. The Army also does not tie TPE to maintenance funding, which forces units to expend considerable effort bringing their TPE to operational standards.
To address these issues, the 1st TSC worked with the Forces Command, the Army Reserve Command, and First Army to begin deploying units with all of their equipment. The 1st TSC further worked with the Army Materiel Command to begin a quarterly TPE review process that identifies TPE to be transferred to a table of distribution and allowances that can be tied to maintenance funding.
MUNITIONS REDISTRIBUTION. The 1st TSC's process also contributed to the redistribution of munitions stocks within the theater. A large portion of theater munitions stocks were stored in the theater storage area (TSA). This stressed TSA safety requirements and caused an increase in customer wait times for munitions shipments from the TSA to the point of use.
Through the set-the-theater process, the 1st TSC identified and redistributed munitions from the TSA to ammunition supply points that were closer to the points of use and to strategic ports of debarkation. The 1st TSC also worked to develop storage expansion projects at specific ammunition supply points to account for the increased requirements.
These actions allowed the 1st TSC to reduce the munitions stocks held at the TSA and reduce the time required to transport munitions from storage locations to the points of need.
The 1st TSC's employment of a deliberate set-the-theater process has made significant improvements to current and future sustainment operations across the Middle East. Although the 1st TSC designed this process to support the CENTCOM AOR specifically, it provides an example that other TSCs could consider for their own set-the-theater planning requirements.
By identifying sustainment requirements, assessing current capabilities and gaps, and planning operations and actions to mitigate risk, the TSC executes set-the-theater operations and actions that contribute to setting favorable conditions for military operations in phase 0 and beyond.
Maj. Gen. Flem B. "Donnie" Walker Jr. is the commanding general of the 1st TSC.
Col. Mike Egan is the G-5 for the 1st TSC. He has a bachelor's degree in business economics from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master's degree in supply chain management from Webster University. His military education includes the Quartermaster Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Intermediate Level Education.
Maj. Keith M. Kacmar is the strategic plans officer for the 1st TSC. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a master's degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina. His military education includes the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Maneuver Captains Career Course, Intermediate Level Education Common Core, and the Basic Strategic Arts Program at the Army War College.
This article was published in the September-October 2017 issue of Army Sustainment magazine.