Sustainment is unique ‘Army competitive advantage’

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sustainment is not only an Army core competency, it is an Army competitive advantage that is unique among other armies around the world," said the Army director of strategy, plans and policy, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7.

"We cannot concede this advantage to anyone, and we have to continue to nurture it over time," Maj. Gen. William Hix said, speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Hot Topic forum that focused on Army sustainment.

Hix said the Army faces "potential overmatch due to technology proliferation and access to knowledge that did not exist 10 or 15 years ago."

Adding, "Our strategic vision, operational concepts, and the emerging operational environment demand increasingly agile Army sustainment."

In this environment, Hix said, "State and non-state actors are employing traditional, irregular and hybrid approaches to threaten U.S. interests and frustrate military operations."

To deter our enemies, the Army must conduct sophisticated expeditionary maneuver, he said.

In order to defeat anti-access area denial strategies of our adversaries, Hix said the Army must "take their focus and split it apart" by operating in a dispersed manner.

He added, "It’s a challenge to both the operating force and the sustainment community to figure that out."

Shaping sustainment for the future

In an uncertain and ever-changing world, the Army must be prepared to deploy and sustain a warfighting force anywhere in the world with little or no warning, said Maj. Gen. Steve Lyons during a panel titled "Shaping Army Sustainment for the Dynamic Environment of 2025."

"We have to have an early-entry capability, whether that’s forced or otherwise" because operational access may be contested, Lyons said.

Lyons, the commanding general, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command/Sustainment Center of Excellence and Fort Lee, Va., chaired the panel.

The Army may no longer maintain superiority, particularly in the cyber domain, Lyons said.

"We have to be able to project and sustain a force over long and contested lines of communication," he added.

Despite force reductions and efforts to reduce energy consumption, Lyons said there are no trends that indicate the Army will have a decrease in sustainment requirements.

As technology improves, the sustainment footprint on future battlefields will increase.

Jim Young, Army account manager for Google, said, "We are reaching a point where sensors are going to be woven into the fabric of clothing" and other materials.

This and other innovations represent "a plethora of opportunities for sustainment in the future."

One technology the Army is developing is quantum sensing for subterranean, megacity and undersea environments, Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding general, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, said.

"If a soldier has quantum sensors, and can penetrate down and see how deep a tunnel is, that’s a value added," he noted.

The Army Reserve will continue to play an important role in sustainment, said Maj. Gen. Les Carroll, commander, 377th Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve.

"In aggregate, about 78 percent of the [Army] sustainment capability is in the reserve component," Carroll said.