Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville emphasized the need for regaining Arctic dominance when he noted the Arctic is “an opportunity to rapidly employ the speed, range, and convergence of cutting-edge technologies being developed for multidomain operations (MDO) to strengthen our deterrence capabilities in the region.”
The materiel enterprise is at the forefront of Army transformation efforts to build the Army of 2030, with a focus on the Arctic with updated doctrine, modernized equipment, and revamped training to sustain large-scale combat operations in a contested environment.
Since the Army released its strategy on Regaining Arctic Dominance in early 2021, we have forged a deliberate path toward improving our extreme cold weather (ECW) and high altitude sustainment capabilities by identifying current and future requirements across all three geographic areas: the Pacific, Europe, and North America. This effort will enhance our ability to rapidly generate and globally project multidomain forces that are specifically trained, equipped, and sustained to control contested space in an ECW environment and rugged conditions over the long term. This requires first understanding the challenges, identifying and building capabilities, and then taking deliberate actions in support of units in the region.
The Arctic strategy acknowledges that as the Army fields multidomain task force-enabled units, we need to understand the nature of maneuver and sustainment in harsh conditions with limited accessibility posed by the conditions. Sustainment is challenged by the Arctic environment due to increased transportation required to sustain widely dispersed units through limited lines of communication, special handling and storage requirements to cope with harsh Arctic conditions, and lack of commercial and military infrastructure. While every theater has its own challenges in sustaining the force in a contested environment, the Arctic is unique in the severity of its additional natural impediments to traditional maintenance and distribution operations.
Our sustainers are vital in extending operational reach to geographic combatant commanders. We must adequately plan and develop resupply and sustainment requirements for Arctic-specific equipment, which involves having the right sustainment force structure and infrastructure in place through the Total Army Analysis process and long-term Facility Investment Plan (FIP) programming. The FIP allows us to identify, analyze, and prioritize Army facilities investment requirements across a 10-year horizon to support the warfighter.
Another critical and required Arctic-specific capability is conducting long-range, enduring sustainment operations in ECW conditions. This requires a modernized, agile supply chain that can sustain small and dispersed forces, even in extreme temperature, mountainous, and high-latitude environments.
Army Doctrine Publication 4-0, Sustainment, emphasizes survivability and the capability of military forces to withstand hostile actions or environmental conditions while retaining the ability to fulfill their primary mission. In an Arctic context, survivability is even more challenging, as environmental conditions often disrupt the flow of sustainment. To ensure survivability, we must develop and employ sustainment capabilities and alternative support plans and adapt to environmental conditions that might degrade our sustainment support.
Arctic-capable units are defined as those enabled by doctrine, trained at echelon, equipped sufficiently, and manned by Soldiers with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully operate in the Arctic. Ensuring units have the right equipment is a critical first priority for sustainers. To that end, we recently completed the movement of Strykers, previously positioned in Alaska, which lacked the right capabilities for the conditions in theater. The dwindling fleet of outdated small unit support vehicles that no longer have the required maintenance base for upkeep is being replaced by cold weather, all-terrain vehicles capable of operating in extreme conditions and mountainous environments, with amphibious components to traverse coastal waters. Arctic units are also testing Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection Systems, an innovative multi-layer clothing system designed to be lighter and more durable while increasing warmth and comfort. With the Army’s recently activated 11th Airborne Division in Alaska to lead Arctic operations, we’ll continue to validate our support capabilities to supply, maintain, and sustain weapon systems to allow for uninterrupted operations in sub-zero conditions.
The Secretary of the Army recently tasked the sustainment enterprise to conduct a comprehensive review of existing experiments, wargames, studies, planning scenarios, exercises, and operations, viewed through the lens of contested logistics. The review will serve as the framework to further assess and continue developing the Army’s critical role in contested logistics across the continuum of conflict and all phases of joint operations supporting the joint force in the Indo-Pacific Command theater, a key component of the Arctic region. This will enable the Army’s efforts to remain consistent with the National Defense Strategy and will inform the Army’s investments into the sustainment warfighting function.
The Army will regain cold-weather and high-altitude dominance by adapting how we generate, posture, train, and equip our forces to execute extended MDO in extreme conditions. New systems, processes, and equipment necessitate new perspectives. As we modernize the Army sustainment warfighting function capabilities, our sustainers and logisticians are at the forefront of adapting long-range plans to changes in the environment to reestablish Arctic dominance for a current and future MDO-capable land force.
Gen. Edward M. Daly serves as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC). 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 Fall 22 issue of Army Sustainment.