The most important phrase I have my G-4 team focused on like a laser right now is: strategic readiness.That’s our ability to project and sustain our troops, anywhere in the world, in a harsh and austere combat environment.We do not deploy Soldiers to participate, we deploy them to win. Maintaining combat power and enabling strategic and operational reach, speed, and endurance through sustainment is decisive to winning, especially in large-scale combat operations (LSCO).Our ability to achieve strategic readiness has not always been a given, especially since we’ve been optimized for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations for the past 19 years. In 2010, about 10 years into our COIN fight, I was part of the initial no-notice deployment to Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake that killed 300,000 people. At the time, the Army was engaged in rotational, forward operating base, theater-provided equipment, and Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) enabled deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan; operational and tactical readiness peaked but strategic readiness atrophied.For Haiti, we were unprepared to project power at the speed of war and unprepared to sustain a brigade in our own hemisphere, with no enemy. The Army airdropped Meals Ready-To-Eat to sustain a brigade combat team (BCT) conducting humanitarian assistance missions because we could not efficiently and effectively deliver rations via ship to an island 800 miles away.The Army is a learning organization and our own harshest critic. Then Army G-4, retired Lt. Gen. Mitch Stevenson, conducted an after action review to learn (and grow) from our strategic readiness challenges. We found that readiness was perishable; we went to work trying to improve it.Fast forward 10 years to January of this year. When tensions with Iran escalated, the first plane carrying our Immediate Response Force (IRF), from 82nd Airborne Division, to the Middle East was wheels up within 20 hours. That’s impressive by any measure. We followed up by deploying enabler packages built to assist IRF sustainment and based on lessons learned from Haiti—incredible progress made in strategic readiness over 10 years.In line with the National Defense Strategy, our emphasis today is on posturing in Europe and the Pacific to conduct LSCO as well as to continue support of combat operations in the Middle East. In each theater, we have sustainment commands that have been working for decades on operational missions to open theaters, establish distribution networks, and sustain the force.As a result, we are well postured. Can we improve further? Absolutely. Here are four key issues we are undertaking right now:First, we are working to better posture our Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) so they are combat ready and combat credible. APS are no longer hermetically sealed and in deep-storage warehouses. We have operationalized those stocks into a configured-for-combat posture in order to enable a more rapid integration of forces in theater. The Army APS strategy centers on our ability to provide options in the form of strategically placed sets of warfighting equipment, afloat and ashore, in geographic combatant commands to enable the execution of operational plans and support contingency operations. Equipment that is both ready and configured for rapid employment is key to achieving this purpose.Second, we’ve changed our focus on long-term contractor support. For the last 10 years, we used LOGCAP IV, created while we were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, to enable our endurance during almost 20 years of dispersed operations. We are now moving to LOGCAP V, where our emphasis is to set theaters and posture our Army for LSCO. Today, opening a theater cannot be done alone with Active, Reserve, and National Guard units. It must include government Civilians as well as contractors, and it is important to have them involved in the planning process.From my experience, leaders know what needs to be done to set a theater to conduct LSCO, but the detailed planning to employ contracted capability to enable operational reach, speed, and endurance has not been done. With LOGCAP V, each theater will have contracted planning capability to help plan support for reception, staging, onward movement, and integration.This will enable us to better balance what can be done by assigned forces, deploying forces, and contracted capabilities.Third, we are reviewing options to increase speed through better deployment systems on the home front. We are setting conditions to replace aging rail cars that take equipment from fort to port. We are investing in technologies, such as weigh-in-motion scale systems instead of using 20th century tape measures and scales, so Soldiers can rapidly and accurately determine weights and dimensions of deploying equipment. The Army is dependent on strategic airlift and sealift to move our equipment. Rapid and accurate weights and dimensional data will speed up load planning and the optimization of limited and precious resources.Fourth, we must shift to a multidomain mindset. We used to call America our sanctuary because we had oceans and friendly neighbors on our borders, but I am not so sure that our contiguous 48 states will be a sanctuary in the next fight. Some domains transcend borders. We must prevent adversaries from disrupting our seaports or airports, shutting down our power grids, or swarming us with drones.From the initial alert of units at home station through the entire deployment in LSCO, we will be contested in domains we’ve historically dominated. As such, we are incorporating multidomain threats into our exercises at garrisons and at our combat training centers. Over time, we will change our mindset and behavior to achieve increased preparedness.Sometimes people talk about tactical readiness and strategic readiness as if they are binary. They are not. They are both part of a spectrum of readiness. We can't achieve strategic readiness without tactical readiness. If we can project forces, but we don’t have the tactically ready forces to project then we have not achieved strategic readiness.We must remain focused on tactical readiness. We recruit new Soldiers every year and they need to be trained.But as we have learned in the past, strategic readiness also is perishable. We must balance strategic and tactical readiness. Thankfully as we observed earlier this year in our no-notice deployment to the Middle East, we’re working to get the balance right.--------------------Lt. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, Deputy Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Department of the Army, G-4, oversees policies and procedures used by U.S. Army Logisticians. He has masters of science degrees from Florida Institute of Technology, and Industrial College of the Armed Forces.--------------------This article was published in the April-June 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook