By Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle, and Percy AlexanderApril 1, 2019
In Gen. Mark Milley's 2015 initial address to the Army upon assuming his duties as the Chief of Staff of the Army, he said, "Readiness for ground combat is--and will remain--the U.S. Army's #1 priority." The Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) is nested with the Chief of Staff of the Army's priorities and also views sustainment readiness as our top priority.
How do we empower commanders to get this job done? What do we give staffs to accomplish the mission of building, maintaining, and improving readiness? How do we assist with streamlining endless data points in order to make sense of readiness reports and give you recommendations to improve readiness? Imagine if you could anticipate sustainment shortfalls and combat system failures before they happen and intervene immediately to replenish or prevent the loss of combat power. That's what the sustainment community is striving for.
To answer the above questions we have leveraged Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) as a modern, integrated sustainment tool to consolidate and replace our old legacy systems. GCSS-Army is a transactional system that tracks and enables management of maintenance processes and requirements that build and sustain combat power. It is also the tactical application used to request, receive, store, and issue class IX (repair parts) and accounts for class VII (major end items).
We have taken the information in GCSS-Army and displayed it logically in the Army Readiness-Common Operating Picture (AR-COP) Commander's Dashboard to allow leaders to "see themselves" on the battlefield in order to meet battlefield demands.
Army readiness accounts for a commander's combat power, the unit's maintenance capabilities, and all available logistics resources. In order to improve readiness, commanders need a visual tool that displays supply and maintenance statuses and provides the sustainment analytics needed to make sound logistics decisions.
The value of the AR-COP Commander's Dashboard is the efficiencies gained in resource allocation and the ability to plan, synchronize, and integrate commodities at echelon. This supports building and maintaining combat power for the maneuver commander.
In December 2018, the Army consolidated data from multiple sources into a central database and rebranded it as the AR-COP. Sustainers now have access to the Army's logistics tools and authoritative data through a single portal that enables better readiness visibility and decision-making.
The Commander's Dashboard is a fairly new tool, which reached its initial operating capability in June 2018. This tailorable tool displays unit and Army readiness at the brigade combat team (BCT), division, corps, and Army levels. It also provides consolidated sustainment information and the capacity for commanders and staffs to drill down to subordinate levels of sustainment data.
Figure 1 shows the overall ground equipment readiness for a notional infantry division. Sustainment leaders are able pull data based on their habitual or task force alignment and can add or delete units based on the information needed. The system is able to categorize readiness information by unit, vehicle type, or fleet, as shown in figure 2.
Commanders can track their status by parts on hand or work order completion status. The system can also display operational readiness rates; this greatly assists with focusing maintenance priorities.
Leaders can also identify their critical assets and track their operational readiness status separately. This real-time data populates directly from GCSS-Army. If the status of a vehicle comes up during a maintenance review meeting, a Soldier can hit the refresh button and receive an updated status immediately.
The Commander's Dashboard also reveals a unit's financial standing through its ZPARK table. (See figure 3.) This display helps commanders manage resources for building and maintaining combat power by allowing them to quickly find requests and track their progress.
Figure 3 shows class IX requests staged in ZPARK by priority. This view lets the commander know how many days they have been in their current status. The recommendation is to have the resource manager and sustainment staff work together to post Class IX requests daily as funds are available.
The AR-COP Commander's Dashboard can also show de-obligations and assist resource managers and logistics staffs with tracking their current budgets and forecasting their future budgets for repair parts and equipment.
The Commander's Dashboard continues to add capability and will reach full operating capability over the coming months. Development is underway for a Commander's Dashboard capability to track and optimize shop stock levels in order to ensure the right parts are available at repair sites. The plan is to continually move more capabilities from static sources into this dynamic dashboard to provide near-real-time sustainment information.
LOGISTICS BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE
GCSS-Army houses logistics business intelligence (BI) that collects and consolidates data from GCSS-Army and other sources in order to provide sustainment information to commanders and their staffs. Logistics BI uses big data formulas and methods to increase visibility of logistics statuses and requirements, lower costs, and improve sustainment performance. BI assists sustainers by turning raw data into useful information that helps them identify negative trends and take proactive steps to resolve them. Those actionable insights unburden Soldiers from spreadsheet management, allowing them to focus on providing commanders with logistics information for decision-making.
The current edition of GCSS-Army BI provides BCT-level readiness information for equipment on hand, including its maintenance posture. It displays how our warehouses are meeting customers' requests and helps us to optimize inventories of critical (high-priority) repair parts.
The next level of BI will provide the echelons above the corps level with the same capabilities provided to BCTs and give us a greater understanding of maintenance trends.
Staffs at all levels will have the ability to anticipate outcomes based on BI information. Our goal is to predict with analytical confidence the actions we must take today in order to achieve readiness goals and milestones tomorrow.
Providing valuable tools and readiness resources are critical as we adapt to technology and best practices. We understand that new initiatives and products require training in order to maximize their effectiveness, and we are working to keep training on track.
GCSS-Army BI tools are being incorporated into relevant professional military education and functional courses at the Army Logistics University. During these courses, students learn to use their subject-area expertise and employ BI tools and GCSS-Army management skills in order to apply the art and the science of battlefield sustainment to the mission.
The AR-COP Commander's Dashboard, available at https://uperform.armyerp.army.mil/gm/folder-1.11.46236, collates data from GCSS-Army. It does not require the staff logistician or commander to be a GCSS-Army subject matter expert.
There is online training to certify users in each GCSS-Army business area for those who want to know more about the system's functionality.
All products are current and available on the GCSS-Army webpage (https://www.gcss.army.mil/) along with a how-to user's manual.
CASCOM's Enterprise Resource Planning Cell also sends teams to installations when units request refresher training. If you need assistance, the help desk is always available. GCSS-Army has a 24/7 chat line where subject matter experts provide solutions and resources to answer questions. Training for the AR-COP Commander's Dashboard is also available online through CASCOM-led webinars at https://conference.apps.mil/webconf/899dcf856d1303b182c9ed3117dc3c87.
These monthly webinars allow users to interact with instructors. Users can visit the GCSS-Army webpage or the CASCOM Sustainment One Stop website (http://www.cascom.army.mil/g_staff/g3/SUOS/index.htm) for visual aids, simulations, and student handouts. Instructors will guide users through the AR-COP Commander's Dashboard menu screens and explain how to use the information to increase efficiency in the logistics decision cycle.
THE WAY AHEAD
Another CASCOM readiness initiative is to provide a self-service sustainment visualization tool that customizes all available GCSS-Army information and displays it however the user wants it presented. Current commercial tools include SAP Lumira, which provides simple icon-driven menu screens that present data in ways the user can easily manipulate to solve problems and assist leaders in making sustainment decisions.
Linking this tool to the data in GCSS-Army will provide a powerful resource to produce battlefield updates and logistics status reports. Leaders will be able to tailor logistics inputs and outputs through unique templates and share them across formations to provide critical information and synchronize efforts.
CASCOM, with significant input from the sustainment community, continues to build on GCSS-Army's current capabilities. We also are working to develop the BI tools needed to use GCSS-Army data to enable faster and better sustainment decision-making to build and sustain combat power for Multi-Domain Operations.
By improving our processes and systems and simultaneously training our users, we aim to increase readiness and empower commanders. Relevant, accurate, and easily accessible logistics information translates to confident sustainment decision-making that improves Army readiness--our #1 priority. Support starts here!
Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg is the commander of CASCOM and the Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Lee, Virginia. He holds master's degrees in logistics management and strategic studies, and he is a graduate of the Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College.
Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle is the 41st Chief of Ordnance and the commandant of the Ordnance School at Fort Lee, Virginia. She holds a bachelor's degree in engineering management from the U.S. Military Academy, a master's degree in systems engineering from the University of Virginia, and a master's degree in national security and resource strategy from the National Defense University. She is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the Eisenhower School.
Percy Alexander is the chief of the Logistics Enterprise Systems Division, Enterprise Systems Directorate, CASCOM. He holds a bachelor's degree in government from the University of Maryland and an MBA in logistics management from Colorado Technical University. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Warrant Officer Senior Staff Course.
This article was published in the April-June 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.