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Chapter 5

Distribution Management and Planning

"Focused logistics will be the fusion of information, logistics, and transportation technologies to provide rapid crisis response, to track and shift assets even while en route, and to deliver tailored logistics packages and sustainment directly at the strategic, operational, and tactical level of operations."

Army Vision 2010


A fundamental precept of distribution management is to facilitate the fusion process that allows CSS commanders and staffs to synchronize distribution functions and focus support within an AO. This philosophy is embedded in the distribution management operations depicted in Figure 5-1 and discussed throughout this chapter.


Figure 5-1. Distribution Management for Materiel



5-1. The DMC, along with other functional organizations/directorates and control center elements, is responsible for managing theater distribution by balancing the existing capabilities of the distribution infrastructure with the current and projected operational requirements. Capabilities and requirements have characteristically been discussed within functional stovepipes. Requirements have been measured in materiel release orders (MROs) and transport requests which satisfy local supply and transport customer demands. Other CSS disciplines such as the medical and personnel systems also placed requirements on the distribution system. Distribution managers did not have an effective system to fully synchronize all distribution activities. This historically has resulted in the sub-optimization of the overall distribution capability. To ensure distribution system responsiveness, the support operations elements must have visibility of the overall distribution requirement and must ensure that sufficient numbers of units are positioned and allocated along the system and at transition nodes. These units must have the proper equipment to load, transship, transport, and provide base and installation support to accomplish the distribution mission. With the materiel management and movement control backlog and shortfall reports, the commander's operations plans and priorities, and knowledge of the current situation, the DMC has the visibility and information fusion environment to assess the most critical support requirements. It can accordingly task materiel and movement centers with mission guidance and priorities that may adjust their day-to-day local priorities and efforts. This does not in any way suggest that the DMC will or should become a funnel or layer of command through which materiel or transport requirements must pass. However, the DMC must understand commanders' priorities and the capabilities of the functional units and focus on the seams and connectivity between functional elements to balance distribution capabilities.

5-2. The ability to calculate real world requirements and capabilities, for the time being, is derived through the age-old methods of taking and receiving reports and analyzing and synthesizing the various functional status reports. Until such time as courses of action (COAs) and more sophisticated decision support system (DSS) tools are available, the ability of the DMC to perform complex distribution management will rely on rock solid CSS providers, hard work, and the information fusion environment of the DMC.



5-3. Distribution management is the process of planning and synchronizing the time definite delivery of materiel, equipment, units, personnel, and services to and within the AO. DMCs at each echelon in the theater work with CSS resource managers and movement controllers to -

  • Provide an integrated distribution information network. Establish and maintain Army Total Asset Visibility (ATAV).
  • Leverage all the available distribution infrastructure and optimize pipeline flow to meet requirements/priorities (velocity management theory and practices).
  • Project distribution pipeline volume, flow rates, contents, and associated node and port handling requirements. Adjust pipeline flow and response to changing operational requirements.
  • Integrate force generation and force sustainment operations. Integrate and prioritize unit moves and sustainment moves.
  • Manage DT operations and the flow of multi-consignee shipments.
  • Coordinate, align, and reconcile receipts of CSS resources with in-theater movement control operations.
  • Ensure effective cross-leveling of supplies and efficient retrograde and redeployment of equipment, personnel, supplies, and services.
  • Establish theater specific time definite delivery schedules for routine and high-priority requirements through the use of intratheater distribution and intertheater surface/air express networks.

5-4. In order to meet these requirements, distribution managers perform the functions discussed below.



5-5. The establishment and maintenance of the distribution plan is the single most important aspect of maximizing throughput operations. The distribution management center maintains an accurate and viable snapshot of the distribution plan and recommends changes to it as operations evolve. Although the distribution plan is formally prepared as an integral part of the JOPES reporting process, the DMC (along with control centers and other elements of support operations) at each echelon must maintain visibility of the customers, support relationships, and resources located within its geographic AO. This customer and support information forms the baseline for the preparation of the distribution plan. This information also assists the DMC in determining where and to whom routing and diversion information for in-transit cargoes should be forwarded or directed. FM 63-4 has a template for a distribution plan.

5-6. As C2 elements and their associated support relationships change on the battlefield, the CSS community must keep abreast of these changes. Maintaining these relationships ensures that CONUS and theater supply and support shipping sources can package and ship materiel directly to units in the theater. This information allows the DMC, control centers, and support managers to maintain visibility and control of the distribution system. The ability of distribution activities to hold, divert, and redirect unit equipment, personnel, supplies and services, and other support to their ultimate delivery sites depends on distribution managers and commanders knowing who is supporting whom and where they are on the battlefield.

5-7. With information from C2 systems and with location information collected through the RF tag and tracker networks, the location of distribution activities can be rapidly and accurately obtained. Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS), such as Standard Army Retail Supply System-Objective (SARSS-O), maintain this information as well as support relationships. However, they were not programmed to provide this information in a simple or usable form. TAV systems are currently working to make this information readily available in a usable form. Until sophisticated systems are in place, much of the data will be gathered from various C2 systems like the Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS) and Force XXI Battlefield Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2).

5-8. The DMC, other TSC support operations elements, TSC MMC, TSC MCA, and the medical logistics management center (MLMC) build the distribution plan with input from the functional commands. They maintain access to joint and Service TAV information databases. This information provides the visibility to develop staff estimates that synchronize the multitude of operational missions associated with RSO&I. Their access to visibility of the force generation process (through JOPES) provides them the ability to plan and project unit movement of personnel and equipment with sustainment supplies through the theater distribution system. They match requirements and capabilities of resources available in the theater. In addition, the support operations staff and TSC MCA, in conjunction with the JFC's staff, select the staging/holding areas and position units along the LOC to support the flow of materiel and deploying units.



5-9. The DMC, through the management modules of GCSS-Army will, in the future, exchange information relative to the location of high-priority demands for the theater. The supply module will attempt to resolve requirements from within the stocks for which it maintains visibility. Inability to resolve shortfalls through local stocks will be referred to a manager for determination of alternative COAs. The management module will query both the maintenance module (to determine availability for issue) and transportation module (to determine the physical location) to obtain the most current status of like items in maintenance and in transit. Alternative COAs will be compared, and the "best" COA recommended for distribution manager consideration. Until GCSS-Army is fielded, there is a limited capability in SARSS-O to effect lateral redistribution of supplies. The ability to locate materiel in transit is currently available via Joint Total Asset Visibility (JTAV)/ATAV systems. The DMC coordinates with appropriate support operations/control center elements to effect redistribution.



5-10. There are numerous types of transition nodes with unique capabilities throughout the distribution system. The ability to know what resources are located at/or within a node is critical. Equally important is the ability to maintain the visibility of resources that are being transhipped at or are transiting a node. By monitoring the activity (through RF tags) at a node, the DMC can determine information about the node and the cargo flowing through it. This information can be used in capabilities analysis or to identify bottlenecks in the system. Technologies such as RF tags and interrogators provide accurate data on stock capacity and retention at a node. This information provides insights into a unit's true distribution capabilities. To ensure these conveyances are broken down and the cargo is rapidly distributed requires the use of distribution terminals. Distribution managers synchronize the activities of the node and mode operators and movement and materiel managers to maintain the velocity of the pipeline.

5-11. During force generation operations, other types of transition nodes include staging and holding areas. These nodes form as a result of both reception and retrograde operations for both personnel and cargo. They are described in FM 100-17-3. Each has a common tie to the distribution process in that it requires support and uses materiel assets, personnel, and supply and transportation resources. Distribution managers anticipate and manage the operational impact of these nodes on the overall distribution capacity of the network. The use of joint systems such as JOPES, JTAV, and Joint Personnel Asset Visibility (JPAV) are critical tools in maintaining visibility over the overall distribution process.



5-12. The volume of materiel and units that can transit the theater transportation network at any given time is fixed. Movement control organizations at each echelon have primary responsibility for the issuance of highway and road clearances. Support operations elements and movement control activities have a critical role in balancing and synchronizing the overall movements requirements in concert with the G3. They ensure that the operational planning occurring in support operations and the various functional operating centers is focused on operational missions and that the activities supporting commanders' priorities are synchronized. Critical operational areas of concern for the DMC are -

  • Identification of significant variances between programmed movements and actual movements occurring throughout the distribution system.
  • Resolution of conflicts between movement plans and program and the available network space for priority sustainment or unit movements.



5-13. Commanders, support operations elements, and control centers play critical roles in the selection and placement of all nodes within the distribution system. While each of the functional centers recommends to the support operations element the individual units to be allocated to the distribution system infrastructure, the DMC has the responsibility to allocate and assign responsibilities within the system to -

  • Influence the selection of prisoner of war (PW) and noncombatant (NC) holding areas to optimize support of these sites and their associated operations.
  • Monitor noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO)/NC operations to determine the sufficiency of transportation and support.
  • Synchronize and optimize retrograde transport to meet NC/PW evacuation requirements.



5-14. Distribution management operations are broadly described as a function of three critical components: visibility, capacity, and control. All require accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information.



5-15. Visibility is based on a continuum of CSS data from the sustainment base through the distribution processes of the distribution system (factory to foxhole). Visibility must begin at the point where resources start their movement to the AO, whether that is a depot, commercial vendor, storage facility, APS stockpile, or CONUS/OCONUS unit power projection platform. The information must be digitized and subsequently entered into the necessary CSS information systems. The next critical element to visibility is the capability to dynamically update that source data with information from subsequent CSS systems as to the transport; storage; maintenance; supply; and/or personnel, field, or medical service resource status until the resource reaches its ultimate destination. The information must be accessible to all users regardless of the military service or echelon of command requiring the data.

5-16. Visibility provides the distribution manager the ability to assess how well the CSS pipeline is responding to supported force needs. Distribution managers must gain and maintain visibility (items, personnel, units, transition nodes, and transport modes) at the earliest practical point in the management process. Visibility must be compatible with applicable management systems. Database elements are actively updated during the management process, allowing managers to operate with timely information.



5-17. Most critical to distribution management operations is visibility of the physical network and its capability to support distribution requirements. Visibility of the characteristics and associated restrictions of road, rail, water, and other transportation modes is crucial to numerous distribution decisions. The availability of buildings, hospitals, mills, fuel storage, and general storage areas can influence the overall capability to perform the holistic distribution mission. No matter how unique the function (supply, transport, maintenance, personnel, finance, medical, field service, and so forth), it is affected by the physical network of the distribution system.



5-18. The location and capabilities of CSS units and their materiel and manpower resources are critical force multipliers. The resource network is comprised of US military, HNS , and contracted units, equipment, and other resources which overlay the physical network. The commanders, support operations elements, and control centers are responsible for arraying, disbursing, and allocating CSS units and critical distribution equipment throughout the physical network. The DMC must maintain visibility of the critical CSS capabilities available to the commander in order to apply them towards specific missions.



5-19. ITV is visibility over those portions of the distribution system encompassing the flow of resources and units to the consignee, designated port, servicing air head, SSA, or other destination. This includes force tracking and visibility of convoys, containers/pallets, transportation assets, other cargo, and distribution resources within the activities of a distribution node. ITV is the most difficult to achieve. The automation and communication networks in the theater are routinely less capable than in CONUS. Therefore, distribution managers must know the key functions of each distribution activity and be able to identify related information available within distribution processes. ITV can be further divided into two areas, in-container/on-pallet visibility and en route visibility.

In-Container/On-Pallet Visibility


5-20. In-container/on-pallet visibility consists of detailed content information. It is the source data first established at the depot, vendor, or other source. Visibility down to national stock number (NSN), TCN, and requisition number level of detail must be maintained throughout the entire distribution process even when containers/pallets are unpacked and reloaded onto different transportation conveyances. AIT affords the opportunity to update databases which provide visibility of shipments. This level of detail allows systems like ATAV and JTAV to provide line-item detail.

En Route Visibility


5-21. En route visibility is the detailed visibility of movement platforms/transportation assets while they are mobile and underway. This visibility is provided in part through the use of aggregate commercial off-the-shelf technology. Containers equipped with RF tags and transportation assets equipped with Movements Tracking System (MTS) and similar AIT devices provide near-real-time visibility of movements today. Containers with RF tags pass interrogators, and transport assets equipped with MTS provide position reports throughout the distribution system. Specific shipment and movement information is combined to provide en route visibility and information on containers and their contents. This allows operators to redirect or retask distribution assets to respond to the changing dynamics of the distribution system. This form of tracking provides the distribution manager with the opportunity to see and receive current reports directly from the distribution system.



5-22. Transition node visibility describes the visibility of activities within the distribution system. The physical network and the CSS resource capabilities in the theater determine the number and types of transition nodes. Regardless of the number or types of nodes, the cargo identity and its relationship to the transportation asset that is transporting it must be maintained correctly. These nodes present the greatest challenge to the distribution operator. It is where cargo and units change from one transport mode to another or where transportation assets are off-loaded and containers/pallets are reconfigured for further distribution.



5-23. The integration of the full range of visibility information and the associated ability to control and allocate resources permits distribution managers to effectively optimize the finite capacity of the theater distribution infrastructure. Capacity is managed through the allocation and/or prioritization of resources among customers to balance distribution system capacity with theater support requirements.

5-24. As discussed in Chapter 3, distribution system capacity is a function of the physical and resource networks that make up the system infrastructure. It is the sum of available infrastructure capabilities, as constrained by the throughput capacity of the most limiting physical or resource network capability. Distribution system capacity is always finite in the near term, but never static. Factors such as conflict intensity, size and composition of the CSS force, sophistication of facilities, and other variables influence the capacity of a distribution system at any given point in time. Distribution managers focus on allocation and prioritization of resources in two general areas: short-term transaction management and long-term capacity management.



5-25. Transaction management operations deal primarily with the adjustments to existing distribution plans to maintain optimal system capacity. They represent the day-to-day system management associated with support operations at all levels within the distribution system. These operations may be programmed changes based upon previously anticipated alternative COAs, or they may be unprogrammed changes in response to dramatic changes. In either case, transaction management routinely involves the reallocation and/or reprioritization of resources to maintain optimal system performance against specific short-term requirements. Examples of transaction management operations include deconflicting unit and sustainment movements within the distribution network, diverting cargo or services to satisfy force requirements, and cross-leveling resources within the system to maintain total system balance.



5-26. Capacity management deals with balancing distribution system capacity against evolving changes in theater support requirements. The ability to anticipate distribution bottlenecks, disruptions, and changes in the distribution operational scheme is a key factor in allowing the successful distribution manager to optimize a theater's distribution capacity. As opposed to transaction management, capacity management operations focus on programming changes in the system infrastructure to modify the finite capacity of the distribution system. Capacity management operations use visibility and control to anticipate distribution needs, provide the necessary resources at the right time, monitor CSS execution, and as necessary adjust the distribution system to avoid distribution problems. Effective capacity management minimizes the scope and impact of transaction management on distribution operations, and is a critical element in the distribution management planning process.



5-27. A distribution manager's ability to effect status changes within the system is as important as visibility and capacity are to successful distribution management. The responsiveness of a control process is comparable to the timeliness of management visibility. When changing directions, the manager includes time for the physical actions of the directional change to occur. Theater distribution managers use asset visibility, JFC policy, and Service cooperation to apply control measures to the theater distribution system. The JFC's staff and the designated CSS C2 headquarters perform theater distribution management.

5-28. Enabling technologies will determine how effectively the distribution system operates and maintains itself. The past decade precipitated a rapid advance in information technology. Situational awareness has improved significantly using a combination of current and emerging technologies. The challenge is to assimilate the wealth of available information and make effective and timely distribution decisions.

5-29. The DMC is the focal point for controlling the continuity of the Army distribution pipeline through situational awareness resulting from JTAV/ATAV. This awareness permits CSS managers to control the distribution of materiel, equipment, personnel, and soldier support resources. The DMC integrates various distribution functions into a more streamlined and efficient distribution system. It also integrates distribution management components into the overall CSS planning process.



5-30. Detailed planning for distribution operations is a key part of the environment of the distribution manager. Commanders, support operations elements, and control centers must operate far enough ahead to influence the flow within the strategic segment of the distribution pipeline. Success requires periodic monitoring of resource and movement transactions, knowledge of trends and performance, and knowledge of the commander's operational priorities. Planning makes future operations easier by permitting subsequent, rapid, and coordinated action by the staff and by other elements of the command. It also keeps the command in a better position to respond to rapidly changing situations. Adequate, practical planning is essential to the success of distribution.

5-31. For CSS organizations to provide effective support, the CSS planner must thoroughly understand the mission, determine requirements, assess the capabilities of the supporting force, and apply resources against requirements resulting in the most responsive support possible. CSS staff officers and commanders must be proactive rather than reactive when determining support requirements. It is just as important for CSS personnel to be as actively involved and at the same level of intensity as it is for combat leaders and maneuver staffs.

5-32. Figure 5-2 depicts the interrelationship of the distribution plan with the LPT and the service support plan, with its associated annexes and appendices. At the strategic and operational levels, the OPLAN/OPORD provides operational mission information essential to development of the LPT. The LPT provides the data required to prepare the logistics estimate. This estimate draws conclusions and makes recommendations concerning the feasibility of various COAs and the effects of each COA on CSS operations. Once the commander selects a COA, the CSS planner uses the logistics estimate to develop the logistics portion of the service support plan along with the distribution plan to the OPLAN/OPORD. The LPT, service support plan, and distribution plan are living documents within the CSS planning triad that are changed, refined, and updated as a result of continuing estimates and studies.


Figure 5-2. CSS Planning




5-33. The LPT includes all actions taken by CSS personnel to optimize the means of supporting the commander's plan. These actions include identifying and preparing forward operating bases, selecting and improving LOCs, projecting and preparing forward CSS bases, determining operational stock assets, and building a distribution system. The focus is identifying and ensuring access to resources currently in theater. The command logistician prepares a detailed logistics estimate. He advises the commander of the best method of providing logistics without overwhelming the force. See FM 100-10 and FM 100-16 for a more detailed discussion on the LPT process.



5-34. The goal of the distribution system is to provide the tactical commander staying power by providing the required personnel, materiel, and services. The system's effectiveness is measured by how it enhances and supports strategic, operational, and tactical plans. Army CSS functions are to be performed in as routine a manner as possible throughout the range of military operations. The success of those operations depends on the staff's ability to prepare a comprehensive and technically supportable service support plan.

5-35. The service support plan is an integral part of the OPLAN/OPORD. It contains a statement of CSS instructions and arrangements supporting the operation that are of primary interest to the supported units and formations. It provides the commander's plan for CSS operations based on the information gathered and analyzed during the LPT process. It provides information to the supported elements, and it serves as the basis for the plans of supporting commanders to their units.

5-36. The ASCC/ARFOR, corps, and division assistant chiefs of staff, logistics (G4s) have primary responsibility for preparation, publication, and distribution of the service support plan. Other staff officers, both coordinating and special, assist by providing those parts of the plan pertaining to their respective AORs. The distribution plan, along with the movement plan, is prepared by the DMC in coordination with all the other elements involved in distribution management. For a more detailed discussion on support planning see FM 100-16 and FM 101-5.



5-37. Establishing and maintaining the distribution plan is the single most important aspect of maximizing throughput operations. Although the strategic-level theater distribution plan is formally prepared through JOPES, the support operations element of the TSC/COSCOM must prepare an Army theater/corps distribution plan. The distribution plan is used by the ASCC/ARFOR and corps commanders to execute Army theater/corps-wide distribution. It supports the commander's priorities by establishing what requirements can be resourced given available CSS assets, units, and infrastructure. It identifies competing requirements and shortages and ensures assets are used to effectively meet commander priorities. It is a living document that requires updating to accommodate known and anticipated requirements. It constantly evolves as the theater matures and as the execution of the campaign plan progresses. The plan defines the distribution system.

5-38. The plan is developed as an appendix to the service support annex of the ASCC/ARFOR/corps service support plan. It is a series of overlays, descriptive narratives, and arrays that lay out the architecture of the distribution system and describe how units, materiel, equipment, and CSS resources are to be distributed within the theater. It portrays the interface of automation and communications networks for gaining visibility of the distribution system and describes the controls for optimizing capacity of the system. It depicts, and is continually updated to reflect changes in, infrastructure, support relationships, customer locations, and extensions to the distribution system. The distribution plan portrays a distribution pattern that is a complete CSS picture showing the locations of supply, maintenance, transportation, engineer (as appropriate), medical, finance, personnel, and field service activities. It becomes the tool by which planners and managers know where support should normally flow and where it may be diverted as operational needs dictate. The distribution plan is complemented by the movements program that is used to plan both known and anticipated transportation requirements. The DMC plans branch, with input from all functional elements of any functional commands and the support operations staff and the DMC operations branch, develops the distribution plan. The DMC tracks changes to it to maintain a current picture of the distribution system. Appendix C provides information on the doctrinal flow of commodities and services in the theater which assist in the development of a distribution plan. FM 63-4 will have a template for a distribution plan.

5-39. The scope of the distribution plan is limited to explaining exactly how the DMC will maintain asset visibility; adjust relative capacity; and control the flow of supplies, services, and support capabilities in theater. The service support plan is the overarching plan which specifies the theater/corps concept of support, support relationships, priorities of support, and task organization for support of the force. These two separate staff products therefore differ in scope. The distribution plan describes the distribution system and directs the specific protocols by which the DMC will receive and transmit information in order to perform its mission in regard to visibility, capacity, and control of theater distribution. The service support plan is the document which drives the distribution system by directing priorities of support and support relationships and locations. The service support plan translates theater-/corps- level (ASCC/corps) CSS policies into a unified concept of support across the CSS spectrum. The distribution plan is the means of implementing and monitoring the execution of that concept.


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