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BCS3: Take Another Look

The Battle Command Sustainment Support System (BCS3) is the only sustainment component of the Army Battle Command System (ABCS) suite. BCS3 can be used for a large number of applications, including in-transit visibility of deployment, redeployment, and sustainment shipments; supply-point asset visibility; equipment maintenance status; and unit logistics status using bottom-up reporting.

BCS3 is designed to be used at every echelon, from company to theater sustainment command,
and across all types of formations, from brigade combat teams to all types of support brigades and division and corps headquarters. BCS3 is the only ABCS component that can operate on both classified and unclassified networks. It provides this broad spectrum of capabilities across all formations in the Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve (as well as formations in the Marine Corps and other governmental organizations).

However, BCS3 has developed a reputation for being difficult to use because each user must filter
all of the information available to the one specific data stream he requires. This reputation was deserved in the past, but the BCS3 product manager and Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager (TCM) have been working hard over the past 2 years delivering an updated BCS3 to the field that should change the minds of even the staunchest critic.

How BCS3 Operates

BCS3 pulls supply and maintenance status data from Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMISs) through the Army Materiel Command’s Logistics Support Agency (LOGSA). BCS3 also pulls supply and maintenance data from depot and joint databases as required to complete the common operational picture. As the Army continues to transform how it operates and as users of the system identify requirements for new data (for example, data concerning the container management initiative), the BCS3 product manager is constantly negotiating for access to more data sources.

For in-transit visibility, BCS3 pulls data from both classified and unclassified satellite-based tracking systems to provide positional data on all military and commercial vehicles within an area of operations. All of those data come into BCS3 as soon as the machine is powered on and connected to the BCS3 national server at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. If users want to get a certain piece of information, they can filter out all other data and BCS3 then graphically depicts the required information on either a map or a report.

BCS3 Software

The original BCS3 system (legacy version) and associated hardware were fielded to the Army in 2004. While the product manager continued to improve BCS3’s hardware, its software was not updated until 2008. The product manager and TCM worked together to field the Ease of Use version of the BCS3 software beginning in December 2008. The Ease of Use software provides several improvements to the legacy software. The software developers—

  • Simplified the graphical user interface and made it more intuitive.
  • Reduced the total number of steps required to start the system.
  • Added one-click buttons that permit quicker access to commonly used information.
  • Introduced a wizard capability to simplify building filters and operational views.
  • Incorporated joint doctrinal terms and symbols.
  • Improved STAMIS data feeds. BCS3 now pulls data from LOGSA instead of from regional databases.
  • Revised the processing procedures for radio frequency identification tag data to improve accuracy.
  • Redesigned the database to ensure that data displayed on maps and in tabular reports agree.
  • Added a logistics reporting tool that integrates data from different echelons.
  • Added an easy-to-use, user-defined task organization tool.

In August 2009, the product manager began fielding the Logistics Reporting Tool (LRT) version of BCS3 software. While LRT is essentially the same system as the Ease of Use software, it has several improvements to specific functions (similar to a software patch) that make it necessary and valuable to the warfighter. Most significantly, LRT allows a report to be submitted at the lowest level and the data to be automatically populated at each echelon based on the unit’s task organization. This eliminates man-hours and possible human error. (In the Ease of Use version, the report is manually compiled at each echelon.) BCS3 LRT’s other improvements include—

  • The ability to generate and publish the munitions report (MUREP), bulk petroleum contingency report (REPOL), and bulk water report—all of which are required while deployed to a joint operation.
  • Expanded reporting capabilities for classes I (subsistence), III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants), V (ammunition), VI (personal demand items), IX (repair parts), and X (materials for nonmilitary programs).
  • The ability to aggregate reports using the task organization tool in a nonstandard method. Users can build forward operating base logistics reports or task organizations for planning purposes and for contingency operations using the Army’s entire database of Active and Reserve component unit identification codes.
  • Updated Federal Logistics Data information.
  • Improved map graphics, including symbols for improvised explosive devices.

Continuing Improvements

In addition to the two new releases of software, a few more improvements have been implemented, and BCS3 users should be aware of them.

First, BCS3 can interoperate with Command Post of the Future (CPOF). Currently, both LRT and Combat Power can be downloaded and displayed as applets on CPOF. [Combat Power is a single display report for maintenance, personnel, and classes III, V, and VII (major end items) information.] In-transit visibility, supply-point locations, and graphics can also be displayed on CPOF when provided by BCS3 through the unit’s battle command server. The TCM and product manager are working to display maintenance reports, classes I, III, V, and VIII (medical materiel) data, and position reports on CPOF to provide maneuver and sustainment commanders with a quick snapshot of their units.

A new hardware system is being issued to units concurrently with the new software. This system (a Dell M90, replacing the IBM ThinkPad) is ruggedized and has a dual-core processor, twice the random-access memory (4 gigabytes) of the old hardware, and a 17-inch display. It is much more capable of handling the BCS3 operating system.

BCS3 functions can now be used without having a BCS3 box; LRT can be downloaded onto any computer. This allows users down to any level (such as a fuel supply point in a brigade support battalion) to fill in their required portion of the LRT input tab and send it to be incorporated based on the user-defined task organization. Users can also view the output from the LRT on any computer in a tabular format. A separate “running estimate” application can be downloaded to view all standard reports, such as Combat Power and classes of supply statuses.

Blue Force Tracker and Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below data will be fed directly into BCS3 by late 2010. Although data from these systems currently can be fed into BCS3, it requires battle command server connectivity.

Finally, the BCS3 product manager and TCM are working to improve BCS3’s ability to generate MUREPs and REPOLs. Ideally, a BCS3 user will submit one MUREP and one REPOL that will satisfy both Army and joint reporting requirements. This function and the ability to take archived data and develop estimates in support of the military decision making process are on the horizon.

Several organizations throughout the Army have developed methods to employ BCS3 in garrison operations. For example, the 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas, employs BCS3 within their sustainment operations center for both tactical and garrison units, providing a one-stop logistics center for all of Fort Riley. U.S. Army Europe has integrated BCS3 into its daily battle rhythm, especially within the G–4, where it is used for update briefings.

The BCS3 product manager, based at Fort Belvoir, and the TCM for sustainment command and control at Fort Lee, Virginia, are committed to ensuring that BCS3 meets users’ needs. They are actively supported by the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, and have the resources to support all organizations through new equipment training, sustainment training, exercises, and deployments. The product manager also develops and maintains several computer-based training modules on BCS3 capabilities. Each module is approximately 5 to 10 minutes long and is accessible through the SustainNet Battle Command Knowledge System portal.

The BCS3 product manager and TCM work with the National Simulation Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Logistics Exercise Support Directorate at Fort Lee to ensure that new BSC3 software is available to support simulations. The Battle Command Training Centers are tasked and resourced to provide BCS3 sustainment training at every Soldier’s home station.

For assistance with BCS3-related issues, contact the TCM for sustainment command and control,
Colonel Kenneth King (kenneth.e.king@us.army.mil) or the BCS3 product manager, Calvin Pilgrim

Lieutenant Colonel Dale Farrand is the commander of the 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. At the time the article was written, he was the chief of the Sustainment Command and Control Division at the Army Combined Arms Support Command. He is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree from the School of Advanced Military Studies.

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