Data-Centric Sustainment Will Turn Past Challenges into Future Opportunities for the Total Army and Joint Force

By Maj. Gen. Heidi HoyleNovember 15, 2023

(Photo Credit: Graphic by Sarah Lancia) VIEW ORIGINAL

Last spring, the Honorable Christine E. Wormuth, the 25th Secretary of the Army (SECARMY), asserted to the Senate Committee on Armed Services that “Data is as important as ammunition on the future battlefield” during her statement on the posture of the United States Army. Data centricity has been a top priority of Wormuth’s since she took the helm as SECARMY in May of 2021, as operational success within and across contested environments will be greatly bolstered by the ability to access, analyze, and communicate insights derived from high-quality data at all echelons. Becoming a holistically data-centric organization is not just an abstract goal that’s nice to have. Rather, it is a must-have that has gained substantial momentum as the Army advances its end-to-end data infrastructure to meet the demands of a highly contested strategic, operational, and tactical environment.

Transforming the methods by which gargantuan amounts of data are collected, stored, analyzed, and displayed has progressed through a series of critical inflection points and phases. Many reading this will remember using the Standard Army Management Information System, or STAMIS, in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s as representative of this first phase. Featuring more than 1,000 legacy logistics systems, each managing an isolated segment of sustainment, STAMIS was inherently stove-piped in how it attempted to drive warfighter support from fort to foxhole. As the internet developed and matured, STAMIS migrated to being web-based. However, this transfer failed to exhaustively integrate those pre-existing stove pipes into a fully unified system that generated the appropriate data for analysis and decision support.

The second phase is broadly defined by investments made in commercial-off-the-shelf enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions from the 2010s onward, with an initial focus on connecting each of those ERPs within the Single Army Logistics Enterprise. The focus has since changed to leverage rapid advancements in cloud computing, where the aim is to migrate these ERPs and external solutions to connect data in existing analytics platforms, such as Army Vantage. Doing so enables rapid, authoritative, data-driven decision-making for commanders wherever they operate as the basis of the third phase, marked primarily by efforts related to Enterprise Business Systems - Convergence (EBS-C), ensuring the Army’s business systems are postured to drive readiness for a multidomain operations-capable force. In a broad sense, this helps turn insight into action by delivering an analytical capability precisely at the point of decision.

Chartered in March 2020 by the Under Secretary of the Army, EBS-C will deliver a modernized capability integrating sustainment operations from the strategic support area to the tactical space from existing ERPs, such as Global Combat Support System-Army and the Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program. This cloud-based system will help the Army commoditize its data as the foundation of analysis performed to inform all decision-making exhaustively and systematically. The single, unified end-to-end architecture optimizes information management and provides logisticians the capabilities needed to execute their wide-ranging sustainment missions within increasingly complex operational environments.

Perhaps the most salient example of what converging once disparate systems will afford relates to EBS-C’s enablement of predictive logistics (PL) and vice versa. To derive valid predictive and prescriptive insight from any suite of machine learning algorithms, the underlying logistics data feeding those algorithms must be properly stored and integrated. Put more bluntly, if you provide bad data, you receive bad outputs. Through the application of sensors and other collection methods part and parcel to PL, usage, inventory, and other logistics data fed into a converged system will be delivered in a fashion that is easier to store and integrate. Advancing EBS-C and PL in the near and medium term does not revolve solely around system upgrades that are treated as a panacea for past challenges. There is, of course, a workforce development aspect central to the Army’s broader approach to data-centricity. To use data appropriately, training and education are needed. You can learn more about how the Army sustainment enterprise is modernizing its training and education to improve data literacy and analytical capabilities in the Fall 2023 edition of Army Sustainment. Additionally, this edition features a deeper dive into EBS-C and its supporting framework as part of an interview with three of the Army’s foremost leaders on all things data centricity: Brig. Gen. Michael Lalor, the commanding general of Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and the former director of the EBS multifunctional capabilities team; and Jen Swanson, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for data, engineering, and software; and Ross Guckert, the program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

Answering Wormuth’s call for data centricity across the sustainment warfighting function will improve readiness by enhancing existing logistics processes tailored to the needs of an Army executing large-scale combat operations across all domains. From materiel readiness to supply forecast accuracy to audit compliance, integrated data is foundational to all aspects of the sustainer’s role. As the Army prepares for a future operational environment that places a premium on the ability to aggregate and disaggregate forces in austere points of need, data infrastructure must transform in lockstep to ensure predictability and precision in all delivered sustainment support. Doing so will enable resilient data pipelines across echelons and allow commanders to see, understand, decide, and act by ensuring insight derived from that data is available where it is most needed — the tactical edge. Becoming the data-centric sustainment workforce the Total Army and joint force need is a continuous process, but it is one in which the Army has built uninterrupted momentum in the drive to deliver the Army of 2030 and design the Army of 2040 and beyond.


Maj. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle currently serves as the Headquarters, Department of the Army acting deputy chief of staff, G-4. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, she has 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. She 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 is published in the Fall 2023 issue of Army Sustainment.