Troop Support, joint service panel discuss future of warfare, sustainment solutions

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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Dialogue on the future of warfare and how the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s sustainment solutions will enable service strategies was the focus of a conversation between military service planners and DLA Troop Support senior leaders March 21 in Philadelphia.

During the event, planners from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force each shared their future operating concepts and enabling needs to include more agile and advanced logistics. The event host, DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, viewed the event as a “great start” to a continued dialogue between DLA and the warfighter to address the services’ future plans and requirements, and how Troop Support will grow to meet those challenges.

“We cannot see the future battlefield independently,” Simerly said. “We [Troop Support] cannot predict the challenges and obstacles our future adversaries are going pose. We have to see it through the lens of the services to understand how to best posture our capabilities as we move forward.”

Army Lt. Col. Tracy Henry-Neill, concepts developer from the Futures Command’s Sustainment Capabilities Development Integration Directorate, provided an overview of how the Army intends to make it easier for small groups of soldiers to move around an area without the need for a large logistics footprint. The plan also focused on “cross-domain synergy,” or the ability to act simultaneously and in coordination through time, space and cyberspace to produce effective results.

Simerly engaged Henry-Neill regarding the potential challenges presented, such as the security and integrity of cyber information shared on supply chain and sustainment networks.

“We [Troop Support] realize that in the cyber realm we operate by definition at the nexus between the commercial and government information networks,” Simerly said. “So understanding this vulnerability, we are examining how we can best protect critical information and the networks that link us to our industry and warfighting partners.”

Henry-Neill also spoke about the Army’s need for logistics solutions and contracting support, which are key functions of Troop Support, to meet the Army’s future goals.

“That’s one of the main reasons why Futures Command was stood up,” Henry-Neill said. “To be able to streamline acquisitions and to ensure that we can have the right capabilities to fight.”

The Navy and Marine Corps presenters, Capt. Eric Bach from the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Logistics Analytics Branch, and Lt. Col. Adam Blanton, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Future Operations Officer respectively, shared the Navy’s plan. They presented drivers for changing operations and the challenges in supporting the service’s Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept.

Blanton detailed the EABO strategy, one similar to the Army’s in its focus on agility and sustainability in smaller unit sizes for longer durations.

“[For] the Marine Corps and Navy - you want to employ mobile, low-signature, operationally relevant and easy to maintain expeditionary forces,” Blanton said. “And I would also add in there: low cost. And we want to put them in austere locations, temporary locations that are going to be fleeting to us. Move. Stay and operate. Move again.”

Bach added that the plan cannot be achieved alone, but that partnerships such as those with DLA are welcome in achieving joint solutions. 

“From the Navy and [Marine] Corps perspective, we’ve got some some pretty robust logistics interoperability and integration efforts that we’ve already started,” Bach said. “Not to speak for my boss, but I think we would appreciate some extra partnering along those lines…and I think there is definitely room to extend that to the defense agencies, DLA in particular.”

Bach explained that the Navy must use this concept to maintain superiority against near-peer threats that have outpaced U.S. ship building and acquisition of major naval weapon systems. To do this, he said, the Navy will employ more agile logistics, and digital transformation by leveraging new and emerging technologies and synergistic innovation. In addition to the creation of new ideas and tactics by developing inter- and intra-agency, cross-domain logistics solutions.

“With regard to [DLA’s] whole of government approach…across the spectrum of competition, we’re going to have to rely on partners and provider,” Bach said. “We benefit from the collaboration and communication at events like this.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Michael McLeod then introduced service efforts to centralize acquisition of organizational clothing and individual equipment such as eye protection, safety belts and specialized items used by security forces airmen. He also shared the Air Force’s “Adaptive Basing” concept, an informal concept currently in development that shares aspects of the other services’ concepts and challenges.

“How much [equipment] can we pre-position, and where do we pre-position it?” McLeod posed. “Those are going to be the kinds of things that we have to talk about to make sure our forces are ready. How are we going to feed and protect the forces if they’re going to be out there for days?”

Troop Support Director of Industrial Hardware Air Force Col. Adrian Crowley acknowledged the challenges and offered further dialogue and partnership in order to support the Air Force’s plan for smaller, more geographically separated operating locations.

“You need more…sustainment items,” Crowley said. “You can level demand with four [large base] locations, but you can’t do that with 40 [expeditionary] locations. So DLA will have to be a partner on the battlefield.”

Simerly thanked the service participants for sharing their service plans and assistance in assessing potential solutions that Troop Support can offer through continued dialogue and partnerships.

The event was hosted under the Troop Support Campaign of Learning which was established to set conditions for employees and leaders to think, learn, analyze, implement and communicate future supply chain solutions.