As Army sustainers, we must be prepared to anticipate our role and offer continued support to modernization efforts while serving as the stewards of what we currently use and will use to fight our adversaries. We do this by determining what excellence looks like in the generation, fielding, and maintenance of materiel capabilities. The need for this influence was evident during the Army’s last major modernization effort about 40 years ago to counter Europe’s Warsaw Pact forces and establish dominance in AirLand Battle through the conception of the Big Five weapon systems—the Abrams tank, Bradley infantry vehicle, Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, and Patriot air and missile defense system. At that time, we were confronted with the need to develop the sustainment capabilities necessary to empower those systems for enduring operations. These critical capabilities—such as the heavy expanded mobility tactical truck and heavy equipment transporter—didn’t yet exist to keep pace with our weapon system usage. The resulting readiness gaps threatened our mobility.
Developing, producing, fielding, and sustaining new capabilities is a complex, time-consuming process requiring congressional investment and synchronization across the Army. Altogether, fielding the Big Five took nearly 20 years, and the synchronization needed to arrive at final fielding was no small task. Early system development occurred just after Vietnam and came before the AirLand Battle doctrine was finalized in the early 1980s. There is no doubt that the Big Five have proven critical in Army and joint force operations across a range of contingencies; however, modernizing the force and enabling readiness is not as simple as buying new systems. Keeping up with the speed of technological change creates training, doctrine, and organizational challenges emphasizing the need for sustained synchronization and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities in getting to our endpoint.
The Big Five modernization effort was marked by aggressive and revolutionary procurement. Our immediate needs and available resources will dictate how we undertake the next bout of transformational change—the landscape is different now than in the 1980s, meaning this may look more evolutionary. The recently updated Army Modernization Strategy outlines how we must fight, what we must fight with, and who we must be to support an integrated joint force while conducting multi-domain operations (MDO). All of this is presented in the critical framework of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development and education, personnel, facilities, and policy (DOTMLPF-P) to ensure we strike a balance between current readiness and future capability. The Army’s six priorities—long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality—were established to enable the continuous modernization process and deliver constant support from our Congressional, industry, and international partners. Our continued collaboration with other key modernization stakeholders, such as Army Futures Command and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology , ensures new capabilities and solutions are integrated appropriately across DOTMLPF-P.
It’s no great secret that training and doctrine must simultaneously develop in support. This evolutionary change will optimize the Total Army to meet the demands of current competition while also posturing us to escalate from competition to conflict. Part of this includes moving away from a modular force. The division will replace the brigade combat team as the primary unit of action in preparation for cross-echelon excellence in large-scale combat operations.
We’ve also worked to construct the supporting foundation from which modernization and its accompanying force structure realignment will be sustainably executed. Maj. Gen. Kurt J. Ryan, former deputy chief of staff G4, U.S. Army Forces Command provides an excellent overview of the Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model (ReARMM) later in this edition. The bottom line is that ReARMM will provide the Army with a unit life cycle model to balance current readiness demand with our modernization efforts, and sustainers will play a critical role in synchronization across strategic and tactical echelons across each of its three phases—Modernize, Train, and Mission.
ReARMM will serve as the synchronization tool we will rely on to effectively outline how to modernize without ignoring readiness. Oddly, the two are simultaneously complementary and at odds. Notions of readiness drive modernization as dictated by ever-evolving operational requirements, and modernization supports readiness by ensuring the force’s capability sets can meet and exceed threats from adversaries. However, each initiative requires substantial resources—borrowing from one to buy another becomes a challenge which ReARMM seeks to resolve. Like I mentioned before, this next bout of transformational change will be slow, gradual, and evolutionary and inform how we build a force that can provide adversarial overmatch as the nature of warfare in MDO evolves in lockstep.
By operationalizing ReARMM, our current force structure becomes aligned with current competition requirements through a flexible, predictable force generation process. Units will be assigned a modernization level, or A-MOD, which describes the equipment and force structure necessary to accomplish specific missions. For instance, a Security Force Assistance Brigade aligned to U.S. Africa Command may operate at a higher A-MOD level than other units due to their immediate and future mission capability needs. ReARMM makes difficult resourcing and fielding decisions easier, as they are made in tandem with the modernization requirements of both maneuver forces and their sustainment enablers. With these two aligned, modernization and readiness can be executed in parallel and not competition.
Generational undertakings like modernization certainly aren’t easy—they’re iterative, resource-dependent at their onset, and can detract from current operations if not holistically planned. Every 40 years or so, we go after these transformational changes. The lessons we’ve learned as a Total Army—and as sustainers—have prepared us to most effectively develop, field, and sustain those systems prioritized by the Chief of Staff. The integrative framework we’ve worked to establish doesn’t just control for lapses in readiness; rather, it helps us turn modernization into a readiness enabler as we posture for the future fight.
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 July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.