Editor’s Note: Maj. Gen. Heidi Hoyle currently serves as the Military Deputy to the G-4 and its Director of Operations, G-4 3/5/7.
At last fall’s Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Army senior leaders unveiled the most recent update to our central operational doctrine, Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations. This revision establishes multidomain operations as the Army’s operational concept, with a clear focus on large-scale combat that will define the future battlefield environment and shape how we deliver sustainment support to the warfighter where and when it is needed. Defined by smaller dispersed units serving in potentially austere points of need, the transition from counterinsurgency to large-scale combat operations — and with it, a parallel transition from the brigade to the division as our primary unit of action — comes with a shift in our sustainment approach and its surrounding assumptions.
The critical infrastructure comforts we as a military have been used to in past conflicts may not be as readily available, and it will be the sustainment commander’s responsibility to instill an ethos of agility and adaptability that most effectively balances the art and science of sustainment mission command. Success in competition, crisis, and conflict against a near-peer adversary with similar modernized capabilities demands a persistent state of readiness that has historically been achieved without constant contestation and observation.
The Army’s logistics posture during World War II serves as a great example of our once-strategic status quo. While a commander’s strategy in theater was certainly complemented or constrained by their force’s logistics capabilities, the most foundational logistical task was force projection and stable aggregation from an uncontested homeland. By the war’s end in 1945, it became clear that, in the European theater, the United States mobilized its industrial base more effectively than Germany in battles dominated by materiel readiness. A captured German soldier put it best while being marched by a series of supply repositories along Normandy, claiming he knew America’s secret to victory: we simply piled up supplies and let them fall.
In the past, we had the luxury of pushing what we needed well before, or even just before, we needed it, but the next fight will necessitate a transition from push-to-pull logistics. Instead, as FM 3-0 asserts, we must be ready to sustain forces that can aggregate and disaggregate with speed and agility. Piling up supplies and letting them fall represents an outdated approach that may only obstruct our warfighters and limit their kinetic endurance. Of course, stockpiles are not comprehensively irrelevant, and production based on a static demand forecast is not useless. However, we cannot rely on past practices to sustain modern maneuvering, placing greater emphasis on our drive towards logistics that is both predictive — meaning we know what the warfighter will need before they need it — and precise — meaning we will be holistically efficient in delivering logistics support at echelon.
Impactful and future-ready sustainment formations will operationalize this strategic guidance with doctrine as their foundation while leveraging the wide range of knowledge, skills, and experience resident within their Soldiers, officers, and warrant officers. To be both predictive and precise, our formations must maintain a mastery of the science of logistics through continued training and education that realistically replicates our new operational context. For example, suppose we are to be agile and adaptive to meet the varying needs of our warfighters dispersed across contested spaces. In that case, we must maintain a mastery of the art of maneuver to anticipate future needs in support of their missions. In this edition of Army Sustainment, we hear from our teammates in the field — including five brigade commanders across the Total Army — about how to successfully strike the delicate balance between art and science within sustainment mission command. Doing this at every echelon ensures we, as an Army Sustainment Enterprise, can carry out those critical tasks outlined as part of our warfighting function while proving logistics will remain a key strategic advantage for the United States Army now and in the foreseeable future.
Maj. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle currently serves as the military deputy to the G-4 and director of operations, G-4 3/5/7, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4. Hoyle has a Bachelor of Science in engineering management from the United States Military Academy, a Master of Science in systems engineering from the University of Virginia, and a Master of Science in national resource strategy from the National Defense University. Hoyle is a graduate of the Chemical Officer Basic Course, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course, United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy.
This article was published in the Summer 2023 issue of Army Sustainment.