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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part IV

Sustaining the Campaign

Chapter 12
Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations


Distribution-Based Logistics

Beginning in the 1990s, the US military began to look for alternatives to the iron mountain and became very interested in the business world’s ability to shorten delivery times and lessen its reliance on warehousing through the use of advanced technology. Models used by companies with their own worldwide logistical systems such as FedEx, Wal-Mart, and UPS appeared especially promising and distribution-based logistics (DBL), or as it is more commonly referred to, “just-in-time” logistics, became a new operational concept.4 From this idea, the Army derived a new term—distribution-based combat service support (DB CSS). This innovation became part of doctrine in 2003 when the Army issued its new keystone logistical manual, Field Manual (FM) 4-0, Combat Service Support. This manual defined the concept, stating, “DB CSS replaces bulk and redundancy with velocity and control.”5 DB CSS promised the exact amount of a particular item to arrive at the exact location at the right time for the Soldier to use. Real-time tracking of requirements coupled with precise tracking and delivery of supplies would greatly reduce the need for combat units to carry large amounts of materiel with them into battle. DB CSS also held out the promise of vastly lowering the amount of supplies and units that needed to be put in place before combat operations could begin. And units themselves would be more mobile and able to conduct operations without the encumbrance of moving their vast logistical tail with them.

Technology was the key to making DB CSS work on the battlefield. CSS planners had to synchronize their plans to the operational scheme of the campaign to ensure they planned for the correct materiel and services to arrive at the right time. The Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS), encompassing an array of automated computer systems used by Army logisticians, would enable this process. CSSCS was designed to interface with other combat and combat support systems under the Army Battlefield Command System (ABCS) to provide near real time visibility of CSS requirements and capabilities from the factory to the front line. Logisticians used the term “total asset visibility” to describe the highly accurate understanding of unit logistics requirements and available resources required to make DB CSS work. This knowledge provided CSS planners and operators the ability to deliver supplies and services only when and where needed, avoiding the cost, slowness, and redundancy of the iron mountain system. In theory, combat units were thus liberated from some degree of planning and executing their own CSS systems, allowing them to focus on planning and conducting operations.6

The Army’s implementation of DB CSS accelerated after Operation DESERT STORM in the context of changing joint doctrine about the nature of future warfare.7 The Army made changes to its organizational structure and doctrine while fielding new equipment and technology. Prime among those changes was a major reduction in the number of CSS units and Soldiers during the Army drawdown that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Accompanying these changes, the Army also began to make extensive use of contractor support to supplement and replace Army CSS capabilities, freeing additional Soldiers for other duties. The phrase “contractors on the battlefield” described the process and required a host of changes to operating procedures, legal issues, and treaty obligations. By the late 1990s, contractors performed key roles at all levels within the Army’s logistical architecture.8

Some of these changes actually predate Operation DESERT STORM. With Congressional support, the Army established the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) on 6 December 1985 with the publication of Army Regulation (AR) 700-137. LOGCAP gave major commands the authority to contract for peacetime logistical services. Between 1987 and 1989 the United States conducted two military operations to safeguard oil tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf against Iranian attacks. The newly established LOGCAP was first used in 1988 to support these and future contingency operations when the Army Corps of Engineers contracted out the construction and maintenance of two petroleum pipeline systems in Southwest Asia.9

During Operation DESERT STORM, the Army used dozens of contractors to provide logistics support that included feeding, fuel deliveries, and the fielding of new combat systems, such as the M1A1 version of the Abrams tank to units before they deployed into battle. Contractors provided the bulk of their services within Kuwait, though some maintenance and other contractors moved with tactical units. Results were mixed. Costs and performance problems plagued the generally successful effort as both the Army and private contractors developed new techniques during actual operations.

The relatively small scale of combat operations during the various contingencies between 1991 and 2001 gave the Army the opportunity to develop its new CSS processes in relatively benign environments. LOGCAP and DB CSS were extensively used in Somalia and the Balkans to support US operations in Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo. This 10-year interlude was both a blessing and a curse. Both systems provided impressive results in that decade and became an ever more important part of the Army’s logistical transformation.

In response to inefficiencies in the process, the Army Materiel Command (AMC) took over centralized management of the LOGCAP in 1996. Under AMC, a single umbrella contract was awarded to a single contract firm for the sustained delivery of contractor services in peacetime and for the rapid delivery of increased levels of support during wartime. The LOGCAP contract, designed for a base year plus 9 years of optional renewals, was awarded to Kellogg, Brown and Root Services (KBR), a Houston-based subsidiary of Halliburton, on 14 December 2001. KBR was thus the major contractor in place for both Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) and OIF.

DBL had its detractors. The old mass-based system placed a premium on effectiveness, meaning its success was based on combat units having all the logistical support they needed, without interruption, even if the process required a large logistical tail and mountains of supplies. DB CSS made efficiency paramount—minimum stockage levels, speed and accuracy of delivery, and reduction of forces committed to delivering CSS were major determinants of success. DBL’s effectiveness and efficiency were difficult to achieve even with the most sophisticated business practices operating over highly advanced infrastructure. On the modern battlefield, DB CSS faced a host of additional and obvious challenges ranging from the harsh demands of operations in geographic and climactic extremes, to uncertain and rapidly changing natures of war and foreign policy, to catastrophic combat outcomes and attacks anywhere on the supply line from the factory to the front line.

The Army’s DB CSS transformation, like the Army’s overall transformation efforts, was not complete when OIF began. CSS doctrine was undergoing change in 2002 and 2003 and the Army codified this transition in August 2003 when it published FM 4-0, replacing its previous doctrine that dated from 1995. FM 4-0 did note the incompleteness and potential shortcomings of the new logistics practices during the change stating, “During this transition, some units may not be able to execute all operations 100 percent according to distribution doctrine.”10 Additionally, in the summer of 2003, OIF itself, as the title of this book suggests, was undergoing transition to full spectrum operations. It is against this evolving backdrop that CSS operations in Iraq must be understood and examined.

Chapter 12. Logistics and Combat Service Support Operations

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