As the Army looks ahead to 2030, it is building a more data-centric, data-cultured, and data-dependent Army. Data superiority requires skilled data leaders and effective data systems focusing on predictive logistics. The lethality and complexity of large-scale combat operations (LSCO) will disrupt sustainment in every domain and level of war. Data is the most decisive commodity for improved sustainment on the contested logistics battlefield. LSCO requires a significant transformation of the Army’s sustainment capability, which is the Army’s largest producer and consumer of data. As it modernizes sustainment systems to ensure freedom of action, extended operational reach, and prolonged endurance, it must leverage data as a commodity to achieve decision dominance.
Over the last ten years, the Army has generated powerful momentum toward transforming the Army into a more modernized force. Last fall, the Army released the updated Field Manual 3-0, Operations, which focuses on LSCO and multidomain operations (MDO), the combined arms employment of joint and Army capabilities to create and exploit relative advantage to achieve objectives, defeat enemy forces, and consolidate gains on behalf of joint force commanders.
Sustaining LSCO requires rapid, precise, and effective data analysis to anticipate requirements and make better decisions faster than U.S. adversaries. LSCO operations produce greater sustainment demands due to higher op-tempo, greater lethality, and significantly increased consumption of supplies and equipment.
In contested, denied, and disconnected environments, joint forces must be able to shoot, move, communicate, and win despite time, speed, and distance challenges. The Army works diligently to ensure its leaders anticipate requirements and make effective decisions within these operating environments. Sustainment transformation efforts focus on better systems, better equipment, and better training to support decision dominance in a changing environment where data is leveraged against its adversaries.
Skilled Data Leaders
The operating environment of 2030 requires sustainers who can read, write, and communicate data in context to provide leaders with better options sooner. To ensure the Army has skilled data leaders and Soldiers, professional military education (PME) and training are becoming more data-centric. Providing sustainment leaders with competence in analytical and technical skills, Army Sustainment University (ASU) implements a data education program that embeds data education within PME throughout the careers of sustainment leaders. ASU’s data education program includes math and computer skills, including statistics, forecasting, data analytics, and data visualization using business intelligence, macros, and spreadsheet formulas. Data education develops sustainment leaders who can understand data and innovate at the tactical edge.
The Army requires modernized data capabilities, including information systems that provide relevant, integrated, and accurate data, enabling commanders to make decisions faster. The Army must aggregate data to allow commanders to leverage the data at echelon. Data systems must offer rapid availability of real-time data to mitigate time, distance, and speed risks. This gives commanders the ability to be responsive and execute across contested environments.
The Army is undergoing a modernization of its Enterprise Business Systems (EBS) to improve its ability to manage data at echelon. The Army’s existing EBS consists of tools that must also be part of the future suite of solutions to data collection needs. EBS - Convergence is the Army’s business modernization and transformation effort to simplify, streamline, standardize, and unify business operations to a common platform that will effectively and efficiently enable MDO. This program seeks to produce a single system to support the Army at rest and the Army in motion decisions, deployments, redeployments, and in-theater sustainment and distribution.
Army sustainment’s priority system effort is predictive logistics. It will provide commanders at echelon with real-time situational awareness of their current and future logistics readiness. It will enable sustainment support and services before the need or demand signals in these contested, denied, and disconnected environments.
Predictive logistics is a suite of solutions that harnesses the power of data for Army sustainment. Predictive logistics helps achieve all four of the tenets of MDO: agility, convergence, endurance, and depth. It also allows for the opportunity to create and exploit relative physical, information, and human advantages in pursuit of decision dominance to sustain the main effort and understand and manage the effects of operations on units and Soldiers.
To meet the challenges of a continuously evolving global stage, joint forces must nest modernized sustainment across the services. Modernization must allow for transitions between services, industry, and domain. As the demand for equipment, fuel, and maintainers increases, so does the demand for resources. Data-enabled capabilities offer the ability to synchronize and distribute those logistics to the multidomain force with precision.
Predictive logistics focuses on data collection, storage, transportation, analysis, and visualization. This predictive logistics data will improve the timeliness and accuracy of logistics data. Without this accuracy, all upstream artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) efforts will produce flawed results for decision support. However, accurate data and analysis, along with advanced decision support tools, effectively sustain and increase combat power at all echelons.
Sustainers and operators need the tools to make the correct data-driven decisions, while commanders need the ability to visualize the capabilities of both the Army and coalition’s combat power. With predictive logistics, weapon system readiness information and the status of relevant maintenance and supply processes are fused and fed to the commander’s running estimate, enhanced with decision support tools. With predictive logistics, commanders at all echelons understand the immediate and future status of their formations’ combat power.
Predictive logistics significantly increases the availability of data, the amount of which exceeds human cognition and requires AI/ML to fully leverage the data at the speed of decision. AI/ML decision support tools expedite a commander’s ability to make decisions.
The more data collected and analyzed, the better AI/ML tools will be at forecasting requirements and optimizing distribution and production at the national level. In the maintenance arena, refinements will improve predictive capabilities and reduce unplanned failures as much as the collected data would make possible.
The Army sustainment community will continue integrating with industry and academia on many current platform programs, including Aircraft Notebook, Stryker Tablet, Digital Logbook, and DataRobot. There are currently dozens of other analytics tools under development with predictive logistics. An example of an innovative technological approach is an aviation maintenance optimization tool developed by the Army’s AI center at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania.
The advantage offered by these data-enabled systems ensures the sustainment enterprise is postured to sustain victory despite the contested environment. To achieve success, the Army must align data education, operational requirements, and sustainment functions while modernizing training, weapons systems, and the ability to predict the future force of readiness.
In a multidomain battlefield, the Army must develop the connection of support functions and tasks at the national and theater strategic levels in a contested multidomain operational environment that challenges the execution of sustainment over distance. Thus, data analytics must continue to evolve with no end state in mind. This will make collaboration between the joint forces critical and make everyone more ready and resilient. Through 2030 and beyond, the Army will make continuous improvements to get data and data analysis into the hands of warfighters at every level.
Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly serves as the commanding general of the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia. He previously served as the commander of the 19th Expeditionary Support Command. He was commissioned as a lieutenant of Air Defense Artillery. 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 is published in the Fall 2023 issue of Army Sustainment.