Confronting the Changing Sustainment Battlefield Calculus

By Maj. Gen. Mark T. SimerlyAugust 31, 2022

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As the Army undergoes its largest transformation in the last four decades, it must invest wisely in its ability to fix, fuel, move, arm, and sustain its modernized forces. The designs of Army 2030 require the holistic modernization of sustainment capabilities in order to sustain large-scale combat operations (LSCO) against peer competitors.

Meeting the demands of Multi-Domain Operations with Army 2030 Force Structure

Army 2030 represents a fundamental shift to the division as the tactical unit of action. It is now the division, not the brigade combat team (BCT), where decisive maneuver is planned and executed. To enable decisive maneuver during multi-domain operations (MDO), which includes the domains of land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace, Army 2030 reorganizes divisions into five purpose-built designs. Anticipated division designs are heavy reinforced, airborne, air assault, heavy, and light. Additionally, these divisions will be coupled with emerging and modernized capabilities. These capabilities take the form of units and consist of division artillery, division cavalry, protection brigade, mobile protection firepower battalion, intelligence and electronic warfare battalion, and the division sustainment brigade (DSB). In all, Army 2030 force structure is the combination of the five division designs coupled with emerging formations to leverage modernized capabilities. As a multi-domain capable force, Army 2030 wields fire, maneuver, and shock effect to see, seize, and exploit positions of advantage across all domains.

For tactical sustainment leaders, Army 2030 presents new sustainment force structure. Designs for the brigade support battalion, light support battalion, and the DSB reorganize the Army’s sustainment capabilities based on division type. Each design will have varied capabilities based on the supported division, such as the light support battalion will support motorized brigades within airborne and air assault divisions. The DSB, in particular, has been adapted to support each of the five different division designs, tailored to provide unique capabilities. Based on the DSB design, these increased capabilities can include a modular ammunition company, medium truck company (palletized load system), medium truck company (petroleum, oil, lubricants, and 5K trucks), mortuary affairs platoon, and an inland cargo transfer company.

Enabling the DSB headquarters to synchronize and integrate the sustainment warfighting function at the division, headquarters staff sections are modified, and new sections are created, such as the support operation materiel management CL VIII section. With mission-oriented sustainment capabilities, assets, and activities, the DSB is the nucleus of division sustainment operations. However, new force structure alone will not solve challenges associated with sustainment synchronization and integration during MDO.

Sustainers preparing for the future fight

Between now and 2030, sustainers must adapt their understanding of sustainment activities from brigade centric to division-centric operations. This fundamental shift to the division as the tactical unit of action creates new complexities for sustainers in a multi-domain environment. Lethal and non-lethal effects by the enemy will degrade, disrupt, and destroy sustainment mission command, assets, and activities. To mitigate this, sustainers must think in terms of mobility, disbursement, and survivability when developing a concept of sustainment. While employing techniques to reduce adverse enemy action, sustainers will face greater challenges to support decisive maneuver.

Additionally, sustainers must anticipate enemy actions against sustainment activities and nodes on the battlefield. Anticipating enemy actions requires sustainers to learn and understand how an adversary will employ their forces. As an example, Army Techniques Publication 7-100.3, Chinese Tactics, provides a holistic overview of the structure, tactics, and operational employment concepts of the People’s Liberation army. Sustainers can use an adversary’s doctrine to balance force protection efforts against enemy actions while executing sustainment activities. However, this balance is an enduring challenge, which sustainers must continue to navigate to an even greater degree on a LSCO battlefield. Aiding sustainers to navigate the complexity of an MDO environment is data.

The most decisive commodity sustainers will manage on the battlefield is data. However, the pace of Army modernization and anticipated requirements of MDO will outpace sustainers’ ability to effectively analyze data. To close this gap, the sustainment warfighting function must invest in data education and literacy through professional military education (PME) and independent study. PME programs focused on foundational level understanding through master sustaining data courses will enhance officer, non-commissioned officers, and Army civilian career progression and professional development to close the data gap. Harnessing data as the decisive commodity will enable sustainers to leverage analytical tools, machine learning, and small-scale simulations to explore feasible sustainment solutions. Adversely, sustainers can employ data for deception operations by sending the wrong logistical demand signals for enemy intercept. As the most decisive commodity, sustainers must embrace a culture of data-driven decision-making, which is practiced through holistic training.

Sustainers must train on mission command, planning, and data management. Command post operations, through the execution of battle drills, standard operating procedures, situational understanding, and battle rhythm, informs the proficiency of a sustainment command post. An effective command post drives synchronization and integration of the sustainment warfighting function at echelon through effective data management. A command post’s ability to conduct knowledge management, maintain situational understanding, control and assess operations, and coordinate with internal and external organizations will be degraded during MDO. Command post training must account for enemy action, how and when data will transmitted, and overall survivability and mobility of the command post to ensure the commander is armed to make data-informed decisions.

While understanding division-centric operations with new force structure, sustainers must also train to the lethality and high demands of LSCO. Training to the scope of LSCO is a daunting task. However, training readiness starts with the Soldier, builds into certified crews and teams, and is validated through platoon and company mission essential tasks. Training is a continuous effort and is incumbent on sustainers to maximize every opportunity, from incorporating garrison support tasks to collective training events. By doing routine things routinely well, the challenges of a LSCO fight are lessoned. Through a holistic training strategy, sustainers integrate their training progression with the training plans of lateral and higher formations. By integrating sustainment training objectives with lateral, higher, and emerging formations (i.e., division artillery and division cavalry), training itself will begin to take on the scale and scope of LSCO.

Lastly, a division-centric fight does not afford the same luxuries of a BCT fight, where personnel and materiel are cross-leveled within a division to improve one BCT’s overall readiness. Tactical sustainers must look hard at both their own formations and divisional formations which they support. Personnel and materiel deficiencies across the division’s sustainment community will become more apparent and must be clearly articulated in terms of risk. Conveying sustainment risk is in terms of freedom of maneuver, operational reach, and prolonged endurance for a division. Most importantly, sustainers will need to generate and implement tactical solutions to mitigate the associated risk with materiel and personnel deficiencies. With the shift to division-centric operations and emerging force structure, sustainers must maximize training, materiel, and personnel readiness to meet the lethality and high demand of LSCO.

The shift to division-centric operations is not revolutionary and does not change sustainment principles and concepts. That being said, division-centric operations within a multi-domain environment does create new problem sets for sustainers. To combat these problem sets, emerging force structure such as the DSB, provide sustainers the organizational tools to maintain tempo, velocity, and volume to sustain decisive maneuver. Sustainers need to understand the force structure, so they can leverage training strategies that complement the ultimate goal of enabling freedom of maneuver on the LSCO/MDO battlefield. Army 2030 is a fundamental shift, one which sustainers must be ready for.


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 Summer 2022 issue of Army Sustainment.


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