The Army’s emphasis on readiness and the significant investments in our soldiers, units and equipment have paid great dividends over the past few years as we shifted focus from low-intensity conflict toward multidomain operations and great-power competition.
We have made incredible strides in tactical readiness, generating and sustaining highly trained, disciplined and fit tactical units, and maintaining the capacity and capability to meet the operational demands of the joint force. As a result, the Army is more combat ready and better prepared to face potential near-peer adversaries than it has been in decades.
While combat troops have always been the foundation of the Army, our strategic advantage has been our ability to mobilize, deploy, move and sustain the force—what Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville has described as strategic readiness. From management of installation infrastructure to mobilization operations, and from deployment to sustainment in the field and redeployment, the materiel enterprise has a significant role in building and delivering Army strategic readiness.
Mobilization, Power Projection
Strategic readiness starts on Army installations, key hubs where soldiers and families work, train and live. Installations are not only the headquarters buildings, post exchanges, commissaries and gyms. They are the ranges where soldiers train, the motor pools and maintenance facilities where they maintain equipment, and the supply support activities and logistics readiness centers where they store and equip their units—all key enablers of mobilization operations.
Installations are also the foundation of strategic power-projection capability, which enables deployment of people and equipment rapidly and efficiently. Railheads, roads, airfields and ports are how soldiers get to the fight. Our enemies know the best way to defeat the greatest Army in the world is to stop it from leaving its own territory. We must ensure the critical infrastructure that moves our force from fort to port, port to port, and port to foxhole is not only ready today but modernized to support next-generation platforms and secure enough to withstand cyber or physical threats.
To that end, the U.S. Army Materiel Command has developed a holistic and comprehensive facilities investment strategy that looks at today’s requirements, as well as those 10 and 20 years out, considering factors that will impact our ability to mobilize and deploy from installations. The strategy prioritizes the infrastructure most critical to successfully project and sustain our forces for large-scale combat operations.
Moving equipment from our installations by land, rail, air and sea requires close integration with the U.S. Transportation Command, commercial operators at strategic ports in the U.S. and overseas, and our allies and partners. The Army continues to demonstrate this capability with recurring deployments to Southwest Asia and the Middle East, and with brigade-sized forces to Europe and the Pacific Theater.
In fiscal 2019, the U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command deployed and redeployed 83 brigade combat team-sized forces, using more than 100 U.S.-flagged vessels, 39,700 rail cars and 271,000 trucks to move more than 26.3 million square feet of combat power.
However, to fight and win against near-peer competitors, which will require moving even more equipment more quickly, the Army must continue to build the skills and reinforce the critical infrastructure that comprises our strategic power-projection capability.
By easing the need for strategic air- and sealift requirements for units deploying from the U.S. and reducing costs associated with permanently basing large forces overseas, Army pre-positioned stocks are key enablers of strategic readiness. Pre-positioned stocks speed forces to the fight by anticipating needs and pre-positioning equipment, supplies and munitions in key areas aligned with combatant commander requirements. For the past three years, we have worked hard to improve the condition of the equipment in the sets, ensuring the communications and weapon systems, and combat enablers, are fully configured and ready to go when units arrive to draw the equipment.
We are turning our attention to a review of pre-positioned stocks to ensure the right equipment is in the right location in the right condition. We also continually assess our munitions stockpiles in the U.S. and abroad to ensure strategic positioning that enables flexibility and speed. Strengthening pre-positioned stocks not only supports our strategic readiness but also serves to reassure our allies and deter potential aggression.
Sustaining the Force
Soldiers cannot fight and win on the battlefield without weapons to fire, tanks to drive, food to eat, and the logistics support to ensure those necessities get to the right place at the right time. For that reason, sustaining the force is also a key tenet of strategic readiness. When it is time to deploy, it is too late to practice battlefield sustainment skills for large-scale combat operations, something the Army has not done in decades. To better prepare, logisticians are engaged in tough, realistic training that stresses people and equipment and improves their ability to anticipate requirements based on their environment, the operation and the mission.
We are also reviewing our organizational structures, doctrine and regulations to ensure our combat sustainment support battalions are organized, aligned and resourced to best support the operational force. We have made great strides in relearning and exercising our expeditionary abilities. The end state is to ensure the right commodities are in place when commanders and their soldiers need them, and front line soldiers never have to wait on logisticians to catch up to their movements.
A key enabler of sustaining the force is the Army’s organic industrial base: 26 maintenance depots, manufacturing arsenals and ammunition plants. When the force needs equipment or parts manufactured, repaired, upgraded or modernized, industrial artisans at the Army’s organic industrial base deliver. This base must be optimized to support current unit readiness across the force, maintain the ability to surge, and modernize and retool to sustain the next generation of equipment. From machinery and advanced manufacturing, to technical competence within the workforce, we are resourcing the organic industrial base and implementing new processes and systems to ensure these facilities keep pace with a modernized Army.
The Army will exercise its strategic readiness capabilities with allies and partners through large-scale training in Europe and the Pacific as part of our multinational Defender series. Defender-Europe 2020 will be the largest deployment of U.S.-based Army forces to Europe for an exercise in the past 25 years, with 20,000 service members and more than a division’s worth of equipment deploying from the continental U.S. We are looking at this challenge in phases.
First, at our installations, we will assess if our training ranges, motor pools, supply support activities, logistics readiness centers, railheads, airfields, ports and other infrastructure and processes are capable of supporting mobilization and deployment operations. Second, we will exercise and validate our ability to draw, employ and turn in full-unit, configured-for-combat Army pre-positioned stocks. Third, once in theater, our focus will shift to assessing field support brigades, contracting support brigades and transportation brigades to ensure that munitions, repair parts, food, fuel and other materiel and services are sourced, produced, transported and delivered to soldiers in the field across Europe and the Pacific. Finally, we will assess our ability to redeploy troops and equipment and receive them back at our installations.
Throughout the exercise, we will rely on logistics information to see ourselves across the entire materiel enterprise, from the organic industrial base to the battlefield. Systems such as the Army Leader Dashboard, which makes data easier for commanders to access, will allow us to see the Army in motion, while the Global Combat Support System-Army logistics system will track supplies, spare parts, organizational equipment, unit maintenance and other financial logistics-related transactions—but only if we understand and know how to harness the data these systems provide. We must be able to leverage our enterprise resource planning systems for critical data that allows commanders and logisticians to make predictive, real-time and informed decisions. We will validate that our enterprise resource planning strategy, focused on streamlining systems and overcoming connection gaps, will move us into the information age environment, as intended.
Defender-Europe and Defender-Pacific will allow us to exercise our roles and responsibilities inside the strategic support area, and to better understand where we have gaps in strategic readiness.
Soldier, Civilian, Family Readiness
Critical to all we do—in both tactical and strategic readiness—are our people: soldiers, civilians and family members. We will not lose focus on providing the quality support and programs they need and deserve, including safe and secure housing, affordable child care and youth services, spouse employment opportunities, and assistance throughout the permanent change-of-station process. Increased quality of life is directly tied to increased readiness, and Materiel Command is committed to delivering the best services to soldiers, civilians and families every day.
Mobilizing, deploying and sustaining a globally engaged Army requires synchronization and integration across the materiel enterprise to effectively move troops and equipment at scale and speed. We cannot rely on industrial age processes and systems to deliver Army readiness. We must ensure our resources—not just funding, but time, people and infrastructure—are aligned and precisely executed to build strategic readiness today.
The Army’s ability to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain combat credible forces is a critical component to Army readiness and a strategic advantage over adversaries. From weight to size, and ease of mobility to cyber, we must consider the factors that impact our ability to mobilize, deploy and sustain our force, and modernize accordingly.