Shaping the Sustainment Force for the Future

By Gen. Ed DalyAugust 31, 2022

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The Army is currently in the midst of its biggest transformation in more than 40 years as we rapidly develop, acquire, and field new equipment and leap-ahead technologies, along with the skillsets, people, and force structure necessary to fight and win on the future battlefield. While weapons systems and equipment may change over time, the one constant is the need to supply, maintain, and sustain those systems from the strategic support area (SSA) to the tactical edge.

The conflict in Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the need for maneuver forces to have effective and robust sustainment support to be successful on the modern battlefield, enabled by contested logistics and mindful of the criticalities of internal and external lines of communication. As the Army shifts its focus from counterinsurgency operations to strategic competition, integrated deterrence, and large-scale combat operations (LSCO) per the National Defense Strategy, logisticians will continue to have a critical role in the future contested environment. Army senior leaders recognize this. Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville recently said, “While innovation and modernization are certainly going to change the way we do logistics on the battlefield, it's not going to change the criticality of sustaining our units while they're in combat—I want to make sure our logisticians understand just how important they are on the battlefield.”

As the Army transitions to a multi-domain operations (MDO)-capable force, we must modernize and transform the sustainment warfighting function capabilities now to respond and enable tactical and operational commanders to expand freedom of action, extend operational reach, and ensure prolonged endurance. Said differently, sustainment capacity must anticipate requirements to build and sustain tactical combat power forward in the battlespace.

Shaping the sustainment force for 2030 and beyond starts with ensuring we are aligned and synchronized with the Army Modernization Strategy and the MDO concept. Logisticians are collaborating with our partners at the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology and their program executive offices; Army Futures Command and their cross-functional teams; U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command centers of excellence; and academia and industry to develop and implement the tactical modernization requirements to support the Army’s signature modernization efforts. Additionally, the Army’s Force Sustainment Modernization Strategy outlines several targeted modernization priorities that shape the Army Campaign Plan 23-30, ensuring the sustainment warfighting function is synchronized with the Total Army’s efforts to implement the Army Strategy.

Shaping the future force goes beyond materiel modernization, or what we fight with—it also encompasses the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities framework. Just as new technology, systems, and equipment necessitate new doctrine and maneuver force structures, so too does it necessitate new training, facilities, methods, and the associated people with the right skillsets and force structure to supply, maintain, and sustain those systems and units. With the division becoming the eminent tactical unit of employment under MDO, we must modernize the sustainment force structure in lockstep with the maneuver force structure changes.

The way we have conducted sustainment in the past will not be sufficient for future operations in a complex environment and extended battlespace that is contested across all domains. The way we have conducted sustainment operations with large storage and distribution areas moving predictably along prescribed routes and distribution points will be challenged in the future. We will no longer have complete unchallenged lines of communication from our depots, arsenals, ammunition plants, and installations through ports of embarkation and debarkation to the tactical edge; we must modernize both our systems and processes to protect our deployed units and materiel in a contested environment.

Critical to setting the theater for LSCO in MDO is having echeloned sustainment for distributed operations from the SSA to the tactical edge, which requires focusing on mobility, fuel, materiel management, and the importance of organic maintenance capabilities forward in the battlespace. Sustainment brigades are division-aligned to mission command sustainment units to provide distributed commodity management. Expeditionary sustainment commands (ESC) are corps-aligned, and theater sustainment commands (TSC) are Army service component command-aligned; TSCs and ESCs are the centers of gravity for operational and tactical sustainment. The TSC receives units and equipment from the SSA is critical to set the theater, while the ESC is the functional headquarters to manage the throughput, distribution, oversight, commodity management, and sustainment planning for a corps commander.

We cannot allow the Army to modernize without transforming the sustainment warfighting function capabilities for the future. The sustainment enterprise must be proactive in maximizing sustainment capabilities for LSCO in MDO at the TSC, ESC, and division levels. One aspect that makes our Army the finest in the world is our ability to project and sustain combat power worldwide across all domains. Now more than ever, we must look at how we are structured currently and for the next 20 years to meet the challenges of the strategic environment and battlespace and provide speed, range, and convergence to achieve dominance and overmatch. We must ensure the 21st century Army is supported by an equally capable and modernized 21st-century sustainment enterprise.


Gen. Ed Daly serves as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. He served three years as the deputy commanding general of AMC in his previous assignment. He managed the day-to-day operations of the Army’s logistics enterprise and served as the senior commander of Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He served as the commanding general of Army Sustainment Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, and as AMC’s deputy chief of staff, overseeing the roles and functions of the headquarters staff.


This article was published in the Summer 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.


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