As our Army adapts to challenges future conflicts may pose, Army forces must be prepared to deploy and deliver combat power to the combatant commander or joint force commander. This requires units deploying on short notice to austere locations with all or a majority of its assigned equipment.
With the risk of large-scale combat operations (LSCO), and rapid short notice deployment requirements we must rebuild our operational deployment capability. Years of predictable deployments under the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model, coupled with outsourcing the deployment process to strategic enablers and contractors, have eroded expeditionary deployment skills the Army once possessed. Planners cannot rely on theater-provided equipment once available for recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Preplanned ARFORGEN deployments caused the deployment execution to shift from an operation for commanders to a task for logisticians.
Army organizations are required to develop and adhere to the Command Deployment Discipline Program (CDDP) in accordance with (IAW) Army Regulation (AR) 525-93, Army Deployment and Redeployment, to achieve and maintain deployment skill proficiency and meet global crisis action requirements. The CDDP is a commander’s tool to enhance deployment readiness. Routine field training exercises, combat training centers rotations, U.S. Forces Command emergency deployment readiness exercises, and other training events offer an excellent opportunity to practice and enforce the deployment readiness levels. A focused CDDP will build deployment competency, capability, and confidence.
In an effort to identify fort to port challenges and provide actionable recommendations, the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) Deployment Process Modernization Office (DPMO) in coordination with Center of Army Lessons Learned, and the deployment community of interest identified three ongoing issues common across the Army.
Fort to Port Deployment Issues
The three most significant fort to port issues and their contributing factors impacting unit readiness are: adherence to deployment policy and procedures, deployment skill proficiency, and deployment discipline.
Adherence to Deployment Policy and Procedures. Deployment standards ensure accuracy and speed of deployment to obtain strategic lift. Across the Army, units are not familiar with existing deployment policies and procedures contained within Defense Transportation Regulations, AR 525-93, and Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-35, Army Deployment and Redeployment. Consistent enforcement of CDDP standards is not uniformly practiced and trained because deployment mission essential tasks (METs) were reintroduced late 2020. We discovered two primary factors that contribute to this shortfall are:
- Standardized Roles and Responsibilities (R2). Speed of deployment depends heavily on every individual and unit fulfilling their specific actions in deployment process. Across several Army installations, deployment roles and responsibilities throughout the process did not adhere to established procedures as prescribed in AR 525-93 Appendix C. Additionally, R2 adjustments need to be made to accommodate the transition from an ARFORGEN deployment model to a short notice LSCO and rapid deployment scenario. Unfamiliarity with R2 creates an unclear line of responsibility throughout the fort to port deployment operation. Some degree of modification is needed to accommodate the operational requirements of specific installations because of infrastructure and equipment limitations, labor shortfalls and training weaknesses. We are working with the community of interest to clearly define the R2 in doctrine and ensure Installation Deployment Support Plans are updated.
- Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) measures at installations. Meeting regulatory and legal transportation requirements are critical to a successful deployment. Our observations frequently found that many units and installations failed to conduct a final QA/QC inspection at the installation prior to cargo movement to the port of embarkation (POE) by surface (rail, commercial truck, and convoy). Significant shortfalls discovered at the POE include bad movement data, frustrated cargo, inaccurate HAZMAT labeling and placarding, and incorrect vehicle configurations. These issues not only affect POE operations, but also violate existing state and federal transportation and HAZMAT regulations, creating potentially larger issues.
Deployment Skill Proficiency at Echelon. The lack of individual and unit deployment skill proficiency is primarily attributed to units not developing and enforcing a CDDP and ensuring individual and unit deployment METs are met. If deployment training is not a priority, critical deployment skills atrophy over time. The two main factors impacting readiness are:
- Transportation Coordinators’ Automated Information for Movements System II (TCAIMS II) Operator Proficiency. TC-AIMS II is the Army’s system of record that requires a level of operator proficiency to provide accurate unit movement data for deployments. TC-AIMS II operators do not work with the system frequently enough to navigate it correctly and respond to the dynamic requirements of rapid deployments. This creates data inconsistencies that could prevent units from meeting deployment timelines.
- Unit Movement Officer (UMO) Proficiency. UMO’s are military occupational specialty immaterial personnel that receive a two-week certification course assigned to every battalion- and company-level organization as an additional duty IAW AR 525-93. UMO personnel were often untrained and did not practice their deployment responsibility frequently enough to display any sort of proficiency.
Poor deployment skills proficiency presents a liability to unit readiness and reduces the unit’s ability to respond rapidly to a contingency. Some of the observed results are delayed equipment, incorrect allocation of strategic platforms (air or sea), and inaccurate data, all of which creates delays in loading conveyances. LSCO deployments present challenges that are not easily overcome while executing a deployment and require significant time and expense to mitigate. These delays will likely negatively affect the combatant commander’s ability to build combat power.
Deployment Discipline at Echelon. Commanders do not treat deployments as an operation. Deployment discipline is created through routine and programed training. Operational planning of deployment is critical to ensure synchronization of equipment to build combat power at destination. Over the past several years, our Army has executed deployments mainly as an administrative move. To properly respond to LSCO requirements and meet critical response timelines, deployment must be treated as an operation and mission commanded like all other military operations.
Effective Mission Command. LSCO deployments are extremely fast paced, requiring constant monitoring and updating. Failure to establish mission command oversight, activate an operations center, publish deployment orders, and publish or update an N-Hour Sequence impact the effectiveness of the deployment mission.
Deployment Planning. Effective deployment planning is critical to the success of any operation. Commanders at all echelons should treat all deployments as operations driven by the operations officer. This will ensure the proper allocation of resources and the sequencing of combat power at destination.
Fort to Port Deployment Issue Mitigation Initiatives
CASCOM is responsible for integrating efforts across doctrine, training, and system improvements to mitigate ongoing issues, provide recommendations and support the operational Army.
Doctrine. DPMO’s Deployment Standards Branch made great strides in late 2021 and into 2022 revising deployment regulations and doctrine. The major revision for AR 525-93 is currently at the Army Publishing Directorate for final review and publication, tentatively late-Summer 2022, along with a first-ever Department of the Army Pamphlet 525-93, Army Deployment and Redeployment Processes and Procedures. The regulation and the pamphlet update synchronize authorities, roles, and responsibilities across all Army units and organizations deploying or providing support to deployment. ATP 3-35.1, Army Prepositioned Operations, published in April 2022, updates APS alignment globally and includes updated accountability, visibility, and employment processes and systems. ATP 4-16, Army Movement Control, also published in April 2022, realigns the movement controls functions and tasks to support the 3-0 and 4-0 series of publications, updates movement control units and responsibilities, and better presents Army movement control at echelon as a critical battlefield enabler for the maneuver commander. Also open for major revision are ATP 3-35, Army Deployment and Redeployment, and ATP 4-13, Army Expeditionary Intermodal Operations. ATP 3-35 and ATP 4-13 are being revised to fully align with the changes in AR 525-93 and the 3-0 and 4-0 series of publications and will be vital resources supporting the Army’s ability to project force globally.
Training. The U.S. Army Transportation School is also working on several initiatives to increase training capacity for UMO personnel. They are expanding the Unit Movement Officer Deployment Planning Course load from 600 students to about 3,100 students annually. In addition to One Army School System supported sites, they are positioning instructors to teach the accredited course at five satellite locations and mobile training team coverage for Hawaii and Korea. This approach will provide accredited instructors teaching a consistent course to the locations with the greatest demand. These training initiatives will help ensure units have trained individuals in key positions. In order to build proficiency, commanders must seek out opportunities for their personnel to practice, gain experience, and become proficient in their deployment skills.
Systems Improvement. Recent improvements with TC-AIMS II have made the program more versatile and user friendly. These enhancements include property book synchronization, password reset security enhancements, an improved graphical user interface, the ability to merge plans, a theater operations' cost management module, and a data validator. To help reduce operator error, DPMO Systems Branch, along with the program manager, is developing a future release to create an interface with the Weigh in Motion System, which will import actual equipment dimensions into TCAIMS II.
Solutions to the Army’s deployment challenges require more than just our mitigation initiatives. Commanders must reclaim ownership of the deployment process by placing equal emphasis on deployment planning and execution as they do on any other operation. All skills require practice and repetition before one can build proficiency, and commands must develop their CDDP and identify opportunities and capitalize on them to build individual skills. As command emphasis is more consistently applied and standards adhered to, many of these challenges can be solved.
Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly serves as the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. He previously served as the commander of the 19th Expeditionary Support Command. He was commissioned as a lieutenant of Air Defense Artillery and awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree as a Distinguished Military Graduate from the University of Richmond. He holds a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University and a Master of Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the Army Command and General Staff College.
This article was published in the Spring 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.