New Logistics Ideas for a Complex World

Col. James Kennedy, U.S. Army, Retired

Lt. Col. Kris Hughes, U.S. Army

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USAID during Operation United Assistance

The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World describes the anticipated challenges the Army might face in the future.1 It explains that the Army does not know the time, place, or enemy it will face, and it identifies the operational challenges the Army must anticipate to win. In order to meet those challenges, the U.S. Army’s centers of excellence are busy identifying capability gaps; determining doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership education, personnel, facilities, and policy solutions; and updating functional concepts to evolve the current force into the Army described in Force 2025 and Beyond.2 The “AirLand Battle” or “Full-Spectrum Operations” experience of our senior leaders and the forward operating base and counterinsurgency experience of our midgrade leaders served us well during the Cold War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.3 However, in our unknown and unknowable future, we will need to change some of our paradigms. It is our intent to highlight five recommendations to drive discussion at the Sustainment Center of Excellence and with senior leaders that may help our sustainment force be more responsive and agile for soldiers and commanders:

  • Create a joint logistics staff officer career track.
  • Create a specific military occupational specialty (MOS) for operational contract support officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in lieu of additional skill identifiers.
  • Provide an annex in a doctrine publication that includes a template statement of work that can be easily modified.
  • Create “homestead” units in which the majority of special skill logistical personnel can be retained to maintain their skill sets.
  • Provide rapid access to the Army working capital funds for Army contracting officers.

Joint Logistics Staff Officer

Joint assignments provide Army officers the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful when planning and executing joint operations. The skills and knowledge they gain include using the joint planning process, integrating Army-centric capabilities into joint operations, and gaining an understanding of the capabilities and cultures of the other services.4 However, once their joint assignments are complete, officers that are now experienced and joint qualified return to an Army organization, creating a joint-billet vacancy that a non-joint-qualified officer must fill. While the Army will benefit from having a joint-qualified officer back in its ranks, the joint community will have to wait for a new officer to develop the required skills to be fully proficient in his or her duties. In a future where joint operations will be more prevalent, does this continual loss of experience make sense? What if instead of rotating officers in and out of joint billets, we allow a certain percentage of logistics officers to follow a joint officer career path?

Once officers reach the rank of major, complete their key developmental assignments, and are eligible for joint assignments, they could be given the option to follow a joint career path. While these officers would still compete for branch command assignments to ensure they are competitive for promotion, all their future assignments would be joint. There are many advantages to this option. By allowing a certain number of logistics officers to follow a joint career path, the joint community will retain their joint experience. Upon entering a new joint assignment, these officers will not have the same basic joint-operations knowledge gaps that non-joint-qualified officers often have, so they will more efficiently and quickly contribute to the mission. The officers will bring new perspectives and insights from previous joint assignments, and they will also have an understanding of how the other services work and how to best integrate Army capabilities into joint operations. Gaining an understanding of service cultures is one of the most difficult perspectives for a joint officer to develop. It is impossible to teach; this understanding must come from experience, which takes time.

Another advantage of this option is the savings in both temporary duty and permanent change of station (PCS) costs. Maintaining joint-qualified officers in joint assignments means there will be a reduced requirement to send officers to the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia, to attend the ten-week Joint and Combined Warfighting School. The school is necessary for an officer to receive Joint Professional Military Education Phase II certification, which is a requirement to receive the Joint Qualified Officer additional skill identifier (3L). Additionally, by having officers on a joint career path, the duration of their assignments can be extended past the traditional three years, reducing PCS costs and mission degradation caused by personnel transitions.

A major drawback to this option is the potential loss of an officer’s Army-specific knowledge due to serving exclusively in joint billets, but there are a number of ways to mitigate this. Officers on a joint career track can participate in Army conferences and events, or serve in an observer coach/trainer assignment with the Mission Command Training Program in their specialty area of expertise. They can maintain their Army-specific proficiency by receiving newsletters from their functional branches or from organizations such as the Center for Army Lessons Learned. And, they can follow Army organizations such as Army Materiel Command or the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command on social media or on the organizations’ websites.

Maintaining Army-specific knowledge is not a new challenge for Army personnel. Many officers spend time in broadening assignments where they have little contact with the Army. Foreign area officers are a good example of officers that must maintain their Army proficiency despite being stationed away from Army forces, and the Acquisition Branch has a “regreening” program to help its officers retain currency.

As previously mentioned, the Army benefits from having joint-qualified officers in its ranks, but the amount of joint-qualified officers serving in Army organizations would decrease if officers choose to follow a joint career track. Despite this reduction, the Army would still have some officers rotating between joint and Army assignments, and with more efficient communication between service staffs, the Army would not lose the benefits of having joint-qualified personnel in its ranks.

Finally, there may be some concern about a non-joint career track officer’s potential to earn the rank of general officer as joint qualification is a requirement. However, if an officer demonstrates the potential to be a general officer, he or she can still be assigned to an enterprise-level joint billet to receive joint qualification, but not remain in the joint community permanently.

Operational Contract Support Officer and Noncommissioned Officer

The first two operational contract support (OCS) principles identified in Joint Publication 4-10, Operational Contract Support, are, “Contracted support can be a significant force multiplier …,” and “Most joint operations will include contracted support.”5 Leaders and soldiers today can attest to the tremendous benefits contracted support brings to the fight to support mission accomplishment, especially in protracted operations or in an expeditionary environment where the number of military “boots on the ground” is limited.

Operation United Assistance, the U.S. government response to combating the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2015, is an excellent recent example of how the U.S. Army and U.S. Africa Command quickly harnessed the capabilities of commercial companies and Logistics Civil Augmentation Program contractors to execute planning, construction, and sustainment, which played a huge role in the success of the mission. Yet, the Department of Defense inspector general’s report from October 2015 clearly stated that the Army provided insufficient supervision and training to contracting officer representatives (CORs) during the mission.6

Having an adequate supply of well-trained and experienced CORs is an excellent mitigation for contracting shortfalls, but with force reductions, we need to look at solutions that do not require growing the force. The current system of COR oversight is not working and needs an adjustment. To rectify this, we recommend the creation of a secondary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 51O, for OCS officers and NCOs, with the Sustainment Center of Excellence as the proponent.7 This MOS is not meant to be a replacement for the 3C additional skill identifier (ASI), which is awarded to personnel who qualify to plan for contractor integration at the operational and tactical levels. Instead, this MOS could be awarded after attending a short course at Fort Lee, Virginia, or the Contracting Center of Excellence in Huntsville, Alabama, to certify the selectees in their new secondary MOS. Our rationale for an MOS instead of an ASI is that an MOS fills a primary duty, while the ASI is often considered as an additional duty.

Currently, brigade combat teams have a 3C ASI OCS planner authorized for the assistant S-4 (logistics officer). In addition to planning, this person manages OCS as an additional duty, but often without appropriate training. Adding a new member to the brigade staff—a 51O officer—to focus on OCS execution and management during an operation would reduce the workload on the OCS planner. When not deployed, these officers would continue to work in units in both the operating and generating force in their primary MOS. When needed, however, they could be tasked by the Department of the Army or pulled from other locations in the command to deploy with a unit.

The 51O officer and NCO could be placed on a unit’s table of organization (TOE) or augmentation table of distribution and allowances (TDA) at the O-6 headquarters level, but not filled unless deployed, similar to the Professional Officer Filler Information System concept for medical personnel.8 Once deployed, the primary duty description of this officer or NCO would be to oversee and manage the CORs, to teach and coach the CORs in the performance of their duties, and to perform other additional duties as assigned. A prequalification for the MOS would be that the soldier must have successfully performed duties as a COR for a year. The benefit of the prequalification is that a unit will receive a staff officer with skills and experience in management of contractors, OCS, and CORs.

One incentive for someone to volunteer for this second MOS might be his or her desire to build on their experience in contracting and COR management. Another incentive might be an individual’s desire to contribute to the operation. Additionally, OCS is a very marketable skill after departing service, so individuals having this secondary MOS could benefit after their military service. The Army could also offer incentive pay or some other bonus to soldiers who serve in these positions. There would be no need for career progression in the MOS because it is a secondary MOS only.

The Army potentially would need to have up to one hundred personnel with this secondary MOS to meet rotational demands in high-utilization areas, or as few as twenty-five in normal contingency operations. This would not result in growth for the Army since this is a secondary MOS for TOEs and TDAs and not a primary MOS requiring a modified table of organization and equipment (a permanent) space. The position could also be filled by a civilian who is trained and experienced, depending on the mission.

The Army’s automated force-structure management programs would require adjustments to ensure this MOS requirement was recognized as secondary and would not result in an increase in total strength. This automated system change would require funding, but the future cost avoidances from better management associated with the new MOS would pay back the upfront cost. Two major benefits to the Army would be increased efficiency in supervision and fewer cases of waste or abuse because better qualified leaders would be managing OCS from within the brigade staff as their primary duty.

Performance Work Statement in Doctrine

Defining the requirements is the first thing that must be done before starting a contract, but the Army does not always get the requirements right for many understandable reasons. Requirements identification is not an easy task, so many times Army leaders turn to past statements of work or other historical documents for their starting points. However, this leads to another challenge: finding past statements of work. While the Office of the Secretary of Defense and its Contingency Acquisition Support Model have performance work statement (PWS) templates on the contingency contracting website, these may not meet all situations.9 Additionally, professional military training does not address these tools, so officers on the ground need a reference.

We propose including an annex in current doctrine publications that provides a template statement of work that can be easily modified. For example, in Army Techniques Publication 4-41, Army Field Feeding and Class I Operations, an annex could be included with a template PWS for contracting for field feeding services.10 This type of PWS could be included in other functional doctrine manuals to ensure more thorough and efficient requirements development. While each PWS needs to be analyzed to meet the needs of the specific mission, providing a template PWS as an annex for functional doctrine may ensure a unit captures certain general requirements. Additionally, requesting units will have an easy-to-reference guide to ensure a more effective contract. This template will reduce the burden on contracting offices, ensure critical requirements are not missed, reduce the amount of time requesting units spend on developing the PWS, and make the contracting process more responsive. And, since the expertise to ensure all requirements are included may not be available to assist with writing the PWS, these templates could ensure critical requirements are not left out. Additionally, a class on drafting PWS could be added to unit professional development programs and taught by the local contracting office.

There are some requirements and standards that should not be overlooked in a PWS, but often are. The PWS template should include

  • the acceptable number of hours a contractor is allowed to work and if the hours of work are continuous or can be broken up over a twenty-four-hour period;
  • government-furnished equipment; the accountability, readiness reporting, and maintenance of that equipment; and the specific use for the equipment to prevent misuse;
  • means of accounting for contract personnel to include reporting times;
  • required reports and deliverables to include submission time, formats, and means of transmission;
  • inspection requirements to include the purpose for the inspection and how the inspection will be conducted;
  • requirements for specific materials and processes; and
  • life support made available to contractors such as housing, food service, medical care, and other available services.

By ensuring these requirements and standards are included in each PWS, the contractor will be more efficient, saving time and money, and the contract management will be more effective because the support will be better planned.

Another method to develop effective PWS development skills in Army leaders is to reinstate the PWS Development Course at the Army Logistics University, or increase the COR Course and the current OCS Planner (3C ASI) Course to include PWS development. This would ensure more officers are educated in proper requirements development and in adding the Contingency Acquisition Support Model information into PWSs as appropriate.

Homestead Units

Given the planning limitation that we do not often know where or when we will be deploying, there are certain functional units that the Army may need in the opening days or weeks of an operation. We propose reassessing the idea of “homestead” units, where the majority of personnel can be retained in a unit to maintain unique skill sets. Reserve component units, in practice, already do this to a large extent, but these units take months to mobilize. One unit that might fit this concept is the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), whose mission is to provide port, terminal, and watercraft operations, including logistics over-the-shore operations. This is the only unit of its kind in the active-duty structure. With the current concerns about enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities and the lack of advance knowledge of seaport, airport, and initial staging base locations, it makes sense to have our only expeditionary transportation Army asset as proficient, trained, and experienced as possible.

In a homestead unit, subordinate-unit captains and junior NCOs would be identified and retained as majors and senior NCOs on the brigade staff. Some might even stay in the unit as lieutenant colonels and sergeants major. Officers and NCOs could move in and out of the unit while the majority of senior leaders homestead in the unit. For example, once a captain completed company command, if he or she performed well, the brigade commander could designate the officer for return as a major after a generating force assignment for broadening and career progression.

Advantages created by homestead units include a decrease in PCS costs and the development of a core cadre with increased experience in unit-specific techniques, tactics, procedures, and operations. And, even if a new brigade commander or command sergeant major is not from the homesteading population, the staff that supports the new leadership would be very experienced. Another benefit for the homesteaders would be a more stabilized family environment. Spouses could get long-term work, soldiers could benefit from home ownership, and children could remain in the same schools for longer periods. Finally, to make training, support, and readiness more effective, all the homestead units could be collocated on one base.

A downside to homesteading would be the potential for complacency and a lack of new ideas and perspectives, conditions that are generally overcome through varied personnel assignments. However, since these types of units would be highly specialized, the only perspectives in the Army regarding their respective specializations would come from within the units themselves. This would only apply to non-brigade-combat-team active-component units. Some possible units to study include a quartermaster pipeline terminal operating company, an inland cargo transfer company, a movement control battalion, a field services company, and maybe one combat sustainment support battalion.

Soldiers with the 331st Transportation Company

Access to the Army Working Capital Funds

The Army Operating Concept defines “set the theater” as “actions taken to establish and maintain the conditions necessary to seize the initiative and retain freedom of action.”11 One constraint that continually slows an Army contracting officer’s ability to set the theater is the lack of immediate access to funds. The Army’s cumbersome financial system does not support rapid acquisition in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief or immediate contingency environments. During Operation United Assistance, Army Contracting Command personnel could not procure needed supplies and services for days after arrival because they had to wait for appropriate funding to be released to U.S. Army Africa and then allocated to them for use through the General Fund Enterprise Business System.12 However, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) deployed contingency contracting personnel from their Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office (JCASO) who were able to write contracts immediately off the plane. Why? Because DLA has a process to authorize the JCASO contracting officer access to the Defense Working Capital Fund (DWCF) for immediate needs with the intent of reimbursing the DWCF once the authorized mission funds are released. While this was the first time JCASO’s expeditionary contracting officers executed using DLA’s DCWF, it proved to be a great success.

Under the provisions of Title 10, the secretary of defense may establish working capital funds to finance inventories of supplies, and industrial-type activities that provide common services, such as repair, manufacturing, or remanufacturing.13 A large portion of the Army Working Capital Fund (AWCF) is managed by activities under Army Materiel Command. However, under the current rules, the Army cannot authorize subordinate elements to allocate AWCF money for emergent activities like Operation United Assistance in the manner executed by DLA. Thus, the Army should review and amend its policy to authorize Army Materiel Command to provide a limited amount of AWCF to the appropriate Army service component command to ensure Army Contracting Command contracting officers can respond swiftly to immediate life-support and setting-the-theater requirements, especially in humanitarian and disaster response operations.


The recommendations mentioned above provide innovative approaches to achieving success when the Army does not know the time, place, or enemy it will be facing. By maintaining experience in our joint staff officers, enhancing our contract capability with the development of an OCS officer and NCO secondary MOS, creating efficiency by including template PWSs in doctrine, increasing proficiency in functional units through homesteading, and providing immediate access to funds through AWCF, the Army can more easily seize the initiative. Through the consideration of these proposed concepts, the Army can ensure it is responsive and adaptive, and ready to address the challenges of the unknowns and win in a complex world.


  1. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, 2020-2040 (Fort Eustis, VA: TRADOC, 31 October 2014).
  2. U.S. Army TRADOC, Force 2025 and Beyond: Unified Land Operations—Win in a Complex World (Fort Eustis, VA: TRADOC, October 2014).
  3. U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], 20 August 1982); FM 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, June 2001). “AirLand Battle” and “Full-Spectrum Operations” are previous doctrinal concepts of the U.S. Army.
  4. Joint Publication (JP) 5-0, Joint Operation Planning (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 11 August 2011), xxv.
  5. JP 4-10, Operational Contract Support (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 16 July 2014), I-9.
  6. U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General Report (DODIG) 2016-004, Army Needs to Improve Contract Oversight for the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program’s Task Orders (Washington, DC: U.S. DODIG, 28 October 2015), accessed 14 March 2017,
  7. Kenneth Gambles, Ellsworth K. Johnson III, and Ethan A. Jones, “Military Proponency—Functional Area (FA) 51,” Army AL&T (October-December 2009): 25–29, accessed 14 March 2017, The Army currently maintains career management field (CMF) 51 in the Army Acquisition Corps. Commissioned officers in this CMF are designated as FA 51 officers, while NCOs have a specific military occupational specialty 51C—acquisition, logistics, and technology (AL&T) contracting NCO.
  8. Army Regulation 601-142, Army Medical Department Professional Filler System (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 9 April 2007).
  9. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Contingency Acquisition Support Model (cASM),” PowerPoint presentation, accessed 15 March 2017,; “Contingency Acquisition Support Model (cASM),” Joint Interoperability Test Command, last modified 4 January 2016, accessed 16 March 2017,
  10. Army Techniques Publication 4-41, Army Field Feeding and Class I Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, December 2015).
  11. TP 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept, 23.
  12. “General Fund Enterprise Business Systems (GFEBS),” U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center website, accessed 15 March 2017,
  13. 10 U.S.C. § 2208 (2015).

Col. James Kennedy, U.S. Army, retired, is an assistant professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, campus, where he teaches force management and sustainment. A former logistics officer, he holds a BS in chemistry from Presbyterian College, an MS in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology, and an MS in military history from the Command and General Staff College. He is working on an MS in education from George Mason University. He served in various assignments in Army Materiel Command, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, and the Army G-4, Pentagon.

Lt. Col. Kris Hughes, U.S. Army, is an instructor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College campus at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he teaches force management and sustainment. He holds a BS in secondary education from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina; an MS in human relations from the University of Oklahoma; and an MBA from Norwich University. He has served in command and staff positions in three separate Stryker brigade combat teams, deploying to both Afghanistan and Iraq, and most recently, he served as the director of staff for the Directorate for Logistics (J4), United States Africa Command.

May-June 2017