SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command recently developed a new synchronization-matrix tool that will improve the efficiency of planning and coordination for the surface movement of joint military equipment and cargo. The Surface Tasking Order, or STO, is designed to be a user-friendly, automated planning and coordination tool that provides unit movement officers and operations centers at all levels and across all services with the same mission-planning and execution sight picture, with relevant details for all SDDC strategic surface movements.

The STO will provide end-to-end visibility using sourced data from multiple systems of record to synchronize the surface movement portion of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise by flattening the deployment process, breeding commander-centric behavior, coordinating unit movement to strategic nodes and replacing what is commonly known as the Port Call Message.

"The STO will fundamentally change the way people and commands view the deployment process," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Farmen, SDDC commanding general. "It's a multi-dimensional way of executing surface movements in support of large-scale ground combat operations."

The STO is currently in development and testing, but its proof of concept is scheduled this fall during the deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team to the European theater.

"The STO will be used as the single source of information for both units and SDDC elements to synchronize and maintain visibility of surface operations," said Maj. Christopher Manganaro, former SDDC Future Plans chief. "The unit can begin looking at their upcoming move and communicate with the SDDC point of contact as early as six months prior to movement. It will eliminate transaction-based conversations and stovepipes that exist between planners and executors."

The STO concept is based on the Air Tasking Order used by the Air Force to plan and track air missions. The ATO serves as the single source of information, accessible to a wide array of mission partners. It lists information about air sorties, such as missions and aircraft types for a fixed period of time. Similarly, the STO is intended to be the single source for key surface movement stakeholders to access, plan and execute data in real-time. It will allow users to see important planning information and milestones six months prior to their available-to-load date, as opposed to 10 days without using the STO.

"This is going to be a game changer," said Farmen. "The STO will flatten the view of the deployment process. It is digitized and not analog in execution. It will provide stakeholders across the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise with the ability to see their missions develop earlier by leveling the deployment playing field, sharing a common operating picture at echelon, and promoting disciplined unit behavior."

Within the STO, users will have access to key surface movement information such as timelines, load information and points of contact, making it easier to coordinate and address any questions or concerns while ensuring SDDC planners and customers are synchronized while staying ahead of possible issues.

"We plan to incorporate additional features and continue to improve upon this version of the STO after it becomes operational," said Phyllis Bailey, SDDC Future Operations STO program manager.

According to Farmen, improvements to the STO will be constant. "Similar to how the capabilities of the iPhone were consistently upgraded over time from version one to the current version 10, the STO will experience continual software improvements as additional upgrades become available," he said.

While the STO will not change the transportation requisition process, the way customers get information about their moves will change dramatically. The STO's software will access and integrate information from multiple databases. Users may create a custom visual representation or operational blueprint on a web-based screen, using sort tools with more than 40 key data points. Additionally, they will be able to enable alerts for their units, and the system will notify the users of movement changes almost instantly.

"The STO currently has a visualization tool, detail page and email notification system in place that allows all users the ability to see the same information," said Manganaro.

This means operations centers are doing less PowerPoint and more thinking by working off a common operating picture.

This visual representation of surface movements is designed to reduce planning and coordination stovepipes currently experienced and promote multi-dimensional thinking and collaboration. The need to create charts to track information is also eliminated since movement officers will be able to brief their commanders directly from the STO dashboard.

"As former Secretary of Defense James Mattis once said, 'If you cannot move, you are not lethal,'" said Farmen. "This new surface strategic movement tool will improve SDDC's ability to move, deploy, and sustain the Armed Forces to deliver readiness and lethality at speed and, most importantly, at scale."

Before users can access the STO, they must have a Single Mobility System, or SMS, account on the SIPR side and then contact the STO program manager for access. For additional information about the STO or to request an account, contact the SDDC Future Operations division at usarmy.scott.sddc.mbx.g3-future-plans@mail.mil.