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In an era marked by rapidly evolving technological advancements and geopolitical complexities, combat operations are no longer confined to conventional battlefields. The ability to maintain the flow of resources, supplies, and equipment from the joint strategic support area to the tactical point of contact is a critical determinant of victory in modern warfare and large-scale combat operations (LSCO), and we should expect this flow to be targeted in all domains. Ongoing operations in Ukraine and studies of our adversaries clearly demonstrate this, which is why we must be prepared to provide sustainment in a contested environment.

Sustainment is about warfighting, and it must continue giving our adversaries pause. Our sustainment competence, capability, and superiority must be known to those who would consider challenging us and serve as a deterrent. Across the Army sustainment enterprise (ASE), we recognize this fundamental reality and adapt our approach to future operations. We are channeling observations and lessons learned from key exercises and operations into action.

The critical necessity for the now-operational Contested Logistics Cross-Functional Team (CFT) was underscored during last year’s Project Convergence. The Contested Logistics CFT is now hard at work on next-generation sustainment systems focused on autonomous distribution, predictive maintenance, and reducing the logistics tail. These new capabilities must provide the right data to make informed decisions at echelon. We cannot take a solely defensive posture, either. We must consider offensive sustainment capabilities that leverage deception to ensure we prevail in the most challenging and contested environments. Picture autonomous resupply capabilities moving along supply routes. Rather than making easy targets for our enemies, imagine if some were offensive and could strike back. It’s about making our adversaries think twice before challenging us and making them pay when they attempt to contest us.

Talisman Sabre 23 provided the Contested Logistics CFT and the entire ASE the opportunity to think through, discuss, and learn how we execute contested logistics in the Indo-Pacific theater. From that exercise, we are working with the Army to refine watercraft strategy, strengthen Army pre-positioned stocks in the region, sharpen our posture, and ultimately better prepare the theater.

Our approach represents a holistic strategy that encompasses adaptive logistics, enhanced cybersecurity, pre-positioned stocks, multimodal transportation, and joint operations. These components work in concert to ensure our ability to sustain the joint force in the face of adversaries who seek to disrupt supply lines and logistics operations.

We must also recognize the importance of joint operations and interagency collaboration to better integrate logistics and sustainment when contested. In LSCO, success will depend on the coordination of efforts between all branches of the military, various government agencies, and our partners and allies. It will require the seamless integration of land, air, sea, space, and cyber capabilities to achieve common objectives. We will not fight the next war alone, and similarly, we will not sustain our forces — or our allies and partners — alone.

Army Materiel Command, and by association, the ASE, has been charged by our 41st Chief of Staff of the Army to deliver ready combat formations. This requires bold ideas, swift execution, and focused energy to sustain multidomain operations against near-peer competitors in a contested environment from the foxhole to the joint strategic support area.

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Gen. Charles R. Hamilton currently serves as the commanding general of Army Materiel Command. In February 1988, he graduated from Officer Candidate School as a Distinguished Military Graduate and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in military studies from Marine Corps University, Virginia. He also graduated from a Senior Service College Fellowship — Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellows Program.

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This article was published in the Winter 2024 issue of Army Sustainment.

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