Formally establishing a framework to understand the sustainment challenges supporting Army expeditionary maneuver may increase the effectiveness of implementing capability considerations from past studies. The current definitions of "expeditionary" and "expeditionary maneuver" describe the forces, but not necessarily the environment in which the forces are operating. This may lead to disagreement or confusion about the sustainment challenges such environments may bring and make it difficult to assess the value of capabilities required to support expeditionary maneuver within the Multi-Domain Battle concept.

To address these existing challenges, this article offers a proposed framework for the expeditionary operational environment that outlines its defining characteristics and provides methods to evaluate future capabilities.


Training and Doctrine Command Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, defines expeditionary maneuver as "the rapid deployment of task-organized combined arms forces able to transition quickly and conduct operations of sufficient scale and ample duration to achieve strategic objectives." It defines expeditionary as "the ability to deploy task-organized forces on short notice to austere locations, capable of conducting operations immediately upon arrival."

But neither definition refers to the characteristics of the environment and their impacts on sustainment. Furthermore, there seems to be confusion about the terms "expeditionary" and "contingency."

During a recent Army research project, researchers looked for studies about supporting expeditionary maneuver. They found that among a total of 64 studies that met the criteria for examination, only 12 used the term expeditionary throughout their discussion. In contrast, 22 studies addressed characteristics of sustaining expeditionary maneuver without using the term expeditionary, and almost half did not address expeditionary characteristics.

The terms expeditionary and contingency were found to be used interchangeably within current programs and strategies, such as the Army Power Projection Program, the Army Warfighting Challenges, and the Demand Reduction: Setting Conditions to Enable Multi-Domain Battle White Paper. Without a definition for contingency and a framework to more specifically describe expeditionary, it is possible to misinterpret the capabilities necessary to support expeditionary maneuver, "fight tonight," and "win in a complex world."


An expeditionary operational environment is characterized by urgency and delivery. We propose that this environment occurs when the two defining characteristics are at odds with each other.

URGENCY. The characteristic of urgency distinguishes conditions from deliberate to immediate, affecting the time to develop sustainment options. Also referred to as crisis situations, this characteristic either nullifies the benefits of prior planning or exacerbates an already tenuous situation.

DELIVERY. In this model, the term delivery is used to describe the ability to meet operational requirements that involve deploying forces regionally and strategically, gaining access to throughput mechanisms, accomplishing throughput and combat configuration, or sustaining forces with follow-on supplies. Being a generic term, delivery also refers to accomplishing those functions through joint, coalition, commercial, or other solutions.


The defining characteristics of urgency and delivery exacerbate two inherent characteristics of the expeditionary operational environment: incomplete and suboptimal.

INCOMPLETE. The expeditionary operational environment is incomplete because force structure is still in the process of arriving and establishing. Because of the combined urgency and austerity of the environment, this incompleteness results in nondoctrinal relationships, missions, and processes because operational requirements must be met before matching or adequate capabilities are fully available.

SUBOPTIMAL. For similar reasons, the expeditionary environment is suboptimal. For example, support requisition and response times, stockage levels, and overall capabilities improve as the theater matures but begin degraded from optimal levels of performance.

Figure 1 describes the relationship of the characteristics of expeditionary operations. Within this figure, the gray window describes expeditionary operations defined by a high level of urgency and a lower level of delivery. The inverse relationship between these two components contributes to the environment's characteristics of being incomplete and suboptimal.


Depicting operations in such a manner allows us to evaluate efforts to mitigate the vulnerabilities of the expeditionary operational environment while minimizing its duration.

MITIGATING VULNERABILITIES. Mitigating the environment's vulnerabilities refers to the ability of deployed forces to thrive despite incomplete and suboptimal conditions. This mitigation can be achieved by increasing distribution independence and interdependence. Examples of capabilities that increase independence and interdependence involve establishing joint logistics commands, increasing global inventories, developing decentralized contracting mechanisms, exploiting commercial assets, and expanding strategic logistics partnering capacity.

MINIMIZING DURATION. Minimizing the duration of the environment refers to reversing the factors of urgency and delivery earlier. It can be attained by increasing deployment speed and throughput capabilities. Examples of increasing deployment speed and throughput are improving installation capabilities for rapid deployment, conducting emergency deployment readiness and sealift emergency deployment readiness exercises, investing in vertical lift, making Army pre-positioned stocks more accessible, and reducing reception, staging, onward movement, and integration requirements.

These definitions could help leaders with measuring effectiveness when evaluating or prioritizing capabilities. Future technologies, concepts, and techniques could be classified by their respective abilities to overcome the adverse characteristics of the expeditionary operational environment and allow the Army to achieve the competitive advantage.


Within this model, it is possible that the evolution of expeditionary operations to another type could be defined by the relationship of urgency and the means of delivery. It proposes that the expeditionary operational environment will mature to one that is still urgent, incomplete, and suboptimal, but the greater means of delivery, having been established over time, will make these factors more manageable.

It is important to note that delivery, as described here, while having heavy sustainment implications, is not exclusively a sustainment function but, rather, an operational imperative. For reference, the point at which the means of delivery surpasses the level of urgency could be labeled as an "operational decisive point," distinguishing between the two environments and communicating the competitive status of operations.

Related, as the term contingency seems to be often used interchangeably with expeditionary, it may be beneficial to differentiate the two terms to establish shared operational reference and differentiate the potential contributions of various initiatives.

Contingency operations could refer to the entire operational framework, of which expeditionary operations are a subset, or expeditionary operations could transition to contingency operations based on the relationship of delivery means to the level of urgency.

The absence of an operational framework that depicts the sustainment challenges and imperatives of the expeditionary environment has the potential to hinder current and future efforts to achieve the desired outcomes of Multi-Domain Battle. This article proposes such a framework for the purpose of better evaluating efforts and capability contributions toward supporting expeditionary maneuver.

Matthew Shatzkin is a retired Army colonel and has been an Army logistics practitioner for 27 years. He has a doctorate degree in transportation and logistics from North Dakota State University. He is the author of the book "Understanding the Complexity of Emergency Supply Chains."

Col. Bobby W. Bryant is an Army War College fellow. He has a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Louisiana Tech University, a master's degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology, and a master's degree in military operational art and science from the Air Command and Staff College.

Col. Fred Maddox is an Army War College graduate. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Military Academy and a master's degree in counseling and leader development from Long Island University, and he is a graduate of the NATO Movement and Logistics Operational Planning Course.
This article is an Army Sustainment product.