(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Strategic competition is an enduring condition. Army service component commands (ASCCs) significantly contribute to the joint force in conducting unified action during competition. The new edition of Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, dated October 2022, adds a fourth level of warfare to highlight the roles of ASCCs during competition. FM 3-0 also describes the strategic framework that provides the construct in which the Army conducts operations. The purpose of this article is to discuss the levels of warfare, the strategic and operational frameworks, the sustainment implications at the theater strategic level, and Combined Arms Support Command’s (CASCOM) approach to align the sustainment warfighting function (WfF) with the theater strategic level of warfare described in FM 3-0.

Levels of Warfare

The levels of warfare provide a framework for defining and clarifying the relationships among national objectives, the operational approach, and the tactical actions to achieve national objectives. FM 3-0 displays the levels of warfare and highlights the expansion of the strategic level of warfare into national strategic and theater strategic. The expansion is necessary to highlight the distinct differences between actions at the national level and those unique actions conducted by an ASCC within a theater.

The national strategic level of warfare focuses on developing and formulating national strategies and strategic military plans that inform combatant commanders’ strategies and identify capabilities and the sustainment to support those strategies and plans. Headquarters, Department of the Army, and Army commands focus on the tasks and functions as part of the generating force to deliver capabilities for employment by the combatant commands.

The theater strategic level of warfare focuses on the combatant commander’s vision for conducting continuous theater campaigning to set conditions for operations. ASCC, as the land component, focuses on the tasks and functions to set the theater and conduct operations that contribute to unified action through multidomain operations in support of the combatant commander.

Figure 1-2 of FM 3-0. Levels of warfare.
Figure 1-2 of FM 3-0. Levels of warfare. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Graphic) VIEW ORIGINAL

Strategic and Operational Frameworks

The strategic framework shown in Figure 3-2 includes four areas (strategic support area, joint security area, extended deep area, and assigned operational area) that account for the connection of strategic capabilities to operational- and tactical-level operations. The strategic framework highlights the importance of the joint security area in relation to the intratheater area of responsibility (AOR) designated to conduct large-scale combat operations (LSCO). It also identifies the importance of the connection of the AOR to the strategic support area, defined as any area outside of the designated AOR known as the intertheater area.

Figure 3-2 of FM 3-0. The operational framework in the context of the strategic framework.
Figure 3-2 of FM 3-0. The operational framework in the context of the strategic framework. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Graphic) VIEW ORIGINAL

The operational framework distinguishes assigned operational areas at any echelon by identifying the deep, close, rear, and support areas required to conduct operations. This representation identifies the requirement to address tasks and functions regarding the battlefield geography that may include contiguous or noncontiguous operational areas. Assessing the framework based on the operational environment from a sustainment perspective allows for formulating an operational approach that provides a unifying purpose to focus operations.

Sustainment Implications

The implications to sustainment in terms of the identification of the fourth level of warfare and the refinement of the strategic and operational frameworks require aligning the operational requirements with the sustainment functions at echelon to ensure continuous sustainment operations in support of LSCO. In the short term, it is important for the sustainment WfF to set conditions during competition below armed conflict to help enable the potential for transitions to crisis and armed conflict. While setting a theater, it is important to look at the capabilities, tasks, and functions of the current task-organized theater sustainment command (TSC) capability assigned to the ASCC to provide operational-level sustainment support within an assigned AOR.

The TSC integrates and synchronizes sustainment operations for the Army theater, including all Army forces forward stationed, transiting, or operating within an AOR. This equates to setting conditions to perform the four operational sustainment responsibilities to support forces in theater: theater opening, theater distribution, sustainment, and theater closing. With the current force structure, the forward stationing of capabilities and host nation agreements are essential to building the support infrastructure and sustainment nodes required to conduct LSCO.

Medium-term sustainment implications focus on the importance of developing the connection of support functions and tasks at the national and theater strategic levels in a contested multidomain operational environment and the challenges of executing sustainment over distance, in an information cyber-centric battlefield, from the national industrial base to the theater of war. The ability to see, manage, and sustain military power requires unity of effort, visibility, and rapid and precise response through hardened networks that hinder the enemy’s ability to interdict. This relies on the ability and skill of sustainment operations to understand when they have become targets of opportunity and how to react to those challenges in a contested anti-access area denial operational environment.

The ASCC and the TSC assigned to each geographical combat commander must focus on the tenets of agility, convergence, integration, and synchronization, as described in FM 3-0, when establishing sustainment support at the theater strategic level of warfare. The long-term sustainment focus should consider the ability to coordinate and deconflict the flow and movement of sustainment support over time and distance in a contested dynamic autonomous/semi-autonomous battlefield environment. The ability to secure the information and cyber domains to support the flow of sustainment while maintaining connectivity and reducing the demand for supplies forward is essential to sustaining a future fight over distance.

Aligning the Sustainment WfF with the Theater Strategic Level of Warfare

To address the theater strategic level of warfare, CASCOM focuses on developing the five sustainment lines of effort: resilient and integrated sustainment mission command; assured rapid power projection; set the theater; industrial base modernization; and sustainment for distributed operations. The development of the echeloned doctrinal manuals that include Army Techniques Publication 4-93, Theater Sustainment Operations, and the revision of FM 4-0, Sustainment Operations, focuses on the purpose of sustainment operations based on the level of warfare by identifying the roles and responsibilities of organizations to conduct sustainment tasks and functions for each element of the sustainment WfF (logistics, finance and comptroller operations, personnel services, and health service support).

The Army, in multidomain operations, focuses on identifying the tasks and functions required to conduct operations. To set conditions for success in competition, the Army draws a distinction between the national and strategic levels of warfare. This allows the sustainment WfF to identify the tasks and functions to provide seamless sustainment operations across the levels of warfare. This highlights the connection of the operational framework and the importance of the continued development of sustainment lines of effort and doctrine to support the warfighters.


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 Fall 22 issue of Army Sustainment.


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