by Nolan P. Welborn
"Commander in Chief, Support Command," has a nice ring, doesn't it? CINCSUP fits right in with CINCTRANS (Transportation Command) or CINCSOC (Special Operations Command). How about an engineer as a CINC? It really isn't that strange an idea. When we admitted to shortfalls in the transportation community, we created a unified transportation command headed by a logistician. So let's do it again, except this time the new command could be headed by a logistician or an engineer. I propose that the Department of Defense (DOD) form a joint support command to manage the defense infrastructure.
The Problem of Redundancy
During the conflict in Grenada, Army and Navy radios could not communicate with each other. A common support structure would have prevented this problem. Organizations working from a common data base would not have knowingly bought radios that use different frequencies. In fact, just the opposite would have happened, by design: when the organization was developing the requirement for tactical radios, the issue of commonality would have been addressed before it became an operational problem. Of course, on some occasions different types of radios are necessary. The point is that, during requirements generation under a common support structure, all appropriate parties would be represented, their reasons for wanting common or different items would surface, and informed decisions would be made.
This radio issue was a major point in the discussions leading to enactment of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, though certainly not the only one. To correct such problems, the law sought to combine functions into common organizations where it made sense to do so. Yet, in the 1990's the stovepipe organizations of the various Services still were creating redundant support structures that served individual Service needs. For example, three different information warfare commands were created to serve the Army, Navy, and Air Force independently. While it may be argued that the Services have different needs at the tactical level, the operational commander needs a system that looks across the entire spectrum. My proposed support command would provide that system.
The DOD infrastructure is huge. To free funding needed for modernizing weapons and establishing the proposed support command, radical changes in business practices must be instituted. A General Accounting Office (GAO) study cites DOD estimates that about $146 billion, or almost two-thirds of the DOD budget for fiscal year (FY) 1997, was earmarked for support infrastructure. Another GAO study states that wasteful or inefficient activities divert limited defense funds from pressing needs such as weapons modernization. This study also suggests using consolidation, reengineering, outsourcing, privatization, and interservice agreements to achieve the desired savings. Areas identified by the GAO as potential sources of savings include acquisition infrastructure, central logistics, installation support, central training, force management, and central medical functions. All of these, except force management, would fall under the purview of the proposed CINC for Support. A reduced force management organization would result as a byproduct.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense John White has stated that the way we support the warfighter must change. He believes that DOD must be leaner, more efficient, and more cost effective in order to serve the warfighter faster, better, and cheaper. We not only have the opportunity to change, we have the requirement to change, according to White. The forces envisioned in Joint Vision 2010 will require a radically different support structure and steadily increasing investments. To afford these investments, DOD will need offsetting efficiencies in support operations. The best source of funds for those investments is within the existing support infrastructure.
Joint Installations for Joint Vision
Joint Vision 2010 states that four new operational concepts will be developed to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint warfighting. In particular, two of these new concepts, dominant maneuver and focused logistics, require a lean and responsive support structure. A key element of dominant maneuver is the combination of seamless operations with reduced force buildup time and a smaller, more widely dispersed battlefield footprint. Focused logistics will require tailored logistics packages and direct delivery of sustainment to the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Both concepts will require some sort of warm base to receive sustainment supplies and disperse forces into the fighting area. If you believe in the theory that we should train as we will fight, you can accept the idea that this warm base should resemble the base structure back home. However, the current base structure back home does not resemble the structure needed by the warfighting CINC's. The CINC's need a joint forces base designed to receive sustainment and provide support to all warfighters, regardless of Service affiliation.
In DOD today, each military department shares the common functions to develop, garrison, supply, equip, and maintain bases and other installations. This means that, when the warfighting CINC needs to establish his theater bases, he has to turn to each of the Services to tap into the experienced personnel and resources they possess. A much better solution would be for him to request a slice of an existing base that operates as a joint installation during peacetime. The practice of having each military department operate its own bases does not lend itself to the development of joint installations. It frustrates the creation of joint installations that CINC's can rely on for experienced staff or that can be adapted quickly to form the type of bases required under Joint Vision 2010.
Not only will creation of a joint support command support the combatant commander, it also will save enormous sums of money. Some may even argue that the greatest benefits achieved by this command would be the reduced costs associated with support infrastructure. However, I do not believe this is true. In my opinion, the greatest benefits are the long-term efficiencies that will grow out of a common support structure. All the Service providers in the support establishment will speak a common language. No longer will the various Serv-ices have the power to create their own versions of each element of support. Responsibility for creating the support structure will reside in the new support command. However, to get the CINC the infrastructure he needs, the existing structure must be changed. Money must be found within the existing structure to make these changes. For this reason, potential ways of generating the needed funds cannot be ignored.
Alternatives to a Support Command
It is time to step back and take a hard look. Redundancy in support services must end. The combatant commanders need a platform that will support future concepts, and the bean counters need ideas to save funds. Consider the alternative approaches that have been tried in the past. But consider them with an eye toward how the savings can be shifted to other organizations, because that is what I'm proposing with the support command.
Consolidation efforts have been a proven winner when the objective is reducing overhead costs. Examples in the Army include creation of strategically located regional offices that provide civilian personnel services, as well as contracting centers and satellite organizations that limit the number of contracting activities operated by each major command.
Privatization is the latest buzzword being used by all the management consultants hired by DOD. The premise of privatization is that a private company can provide a product or service at a lower cost than a Government entity. The fallacy is that the private company has to make a profit. The truth is that the only way these firms can operate at a lower cost is to pay their employees a lower wage than the Government does. Understandably, this is a big fear of Government employees and the reason behind their resistance to making privatization work.
Outsourcing is another word for contracting out. This practice has been around DOD since it became popular during the Eisenhower administration. The procedure usually followed is laid out in OMB Circular A-76. All in all, it is not a bad system, and many services, such as janitorial work and grass cutting, currently are performed by contractors. But the easy work of contracting has been done already. The functions still performed in-house are those that are hard to identify, quantify, and measure. Another problem with expanding outsourcing into new areas is resistance by the organizations targeted for demise.
Reengineering is the process of taking existing work procedures and redesigning them to produce a more effective result with fewer steps between input and output. The problem with this initiative is that the DOD organizational structure does not lend itself to fundamental changes in business processes. The trend in business is to move away from a task-based organization to one built around the concept of redefining the task into homogeneous processes. Individuals are encouraged to challenge why certain activities are performed rather than just investigate how they can achieve the same results for less cost. Improvements can and will be made throughout DOD by reengineering where appropriate, but huge cost savings will not be garnered without bold and innovative organizational changes. The existing organization is too fragmented, and there is no real mechanism in place to export process improvements from one Service entity to another.
Solution: A Joint Support Command
The duplication of effort at the management and policy development levels does not support the needs of the CINC's. Because of the various bureaucratic processes implemented by the different Services, the existing installation infrastructure is both costly and confusing. Over the years, initiatives such as consolidation, reengineering, outsourcing, and privatization have had only limited success in lowering infrastructure costs. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that these initiatives have been tried by a lot of different organizations with no real economies of scale. To continue to pursue these initiatives in the same disjointed fashion will not produce the complete overhaul in the support infrastructure that the CINC needs.
This overhaul should create a single commander in chief tasked with providing all the support required by combatant commands as well as other specific commands. This new command then would be able to achieve economies of scale and use the best that each alternative (such as consolidation and outsourcing) has to offer. Creation of a support command will move DOD to the next level of fully implementing the Goldwater-Nichols Act. The spirit of this law is to combine resources where practical, whether combat capabilities or common user support. Implementation of this idea would assign responsibility for all support services to a CINC Support Command.
Under a support command, DOD would turn all bases, installations, posts, camps, and stations over to the ownership and direct responsibility of one CINC. Instead of Navy bases, Army posts, or Marine Corps depots, there would be joint installations. The CINC also would receive the current resources, staffs, facilities, funds, and equipment assigned to the functions associated with these installations.
It is true that the proposed support command would resemble the Services because Program Objective Memorandum (POM), budget, and contracting authority would have to flow to the command. To do otherwise would stymie anticipated gains. However, establishing this organization would remove a major function from the Services and allow a greater offsetting reduction in costs. This move would resemble the development of the European Union. However, instead of creating a common currency with free trade across the borders, I am proposing common policies and cooperative support structures across the Services. I further propose that DOD develop a new career path for the officer interested in infrastructure support activities. This path would culminate in four-star-level positions with responsibility for all support activities for all the Services.
Recognize the enormity of this suggestion. Earlier, I pointed out that this support infrastructure would consume over 60 percent of the entire DOD FY 1997 budget. When a function consumes over 60 percent of the whole, it cannot be ignored. It is now time to do something because support takes too much of the budget and is not providing the efficient support that the combatant commanders must have to implement Joint Vision 2010. We must allow the warfighters to focus on their warfighting mission. We must actually reengineer the support infrastructure as directed by the Quadrennial Defense Review.
Final design of this new organization would include the acquisition infrastructure, central logistics, installation support, central training, and central medical functions. It would not include personnel and facilities associated with research, development, and testing, nor would it include production and procurement resources that support weapon systems. However, it would include logistics, equipment maintenance, materiel management, installation maintenance and management, communication, and supply operations. It also would include all financial processes, training activities, legal assets, chaplain services, and medical care provided to military members, their dependents, and retirees. In locations where two or more similar functions currently exist to support two or more Services, consolidation would be mandatory; consideration of Service uniqueness would not stand in the way.
This new unified command could use the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) as an organizational model. It would have a four-star boss and a three-star deputy drawn from a different Service. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force each would provide components consisting of their existing personnel assigned to support functions, headed up by two-star equivalents. The Service two-stars would come from those jobs currently providing support functions, such as the heads of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Service headquarters installation management organizations, the Naval Supply Systems Command, and the Army and Air Force Materiel Commands. Of course, there are a number of other existing billets that would be placed appropriately throughout the organization, such as chaplains, lawyers, and medical services officers. It would go beyond the scope of this paper to try to develop a complete organizational structure. The idea is to build the skeleton of a new organization that consists of senior leaders from each of the Services. These leaders should be skilled in all the various support disciplines and proven leaders able to work out the organizational details.
Implementation would be accomplished by using a phased approach. First, the framework would be stood up on paper. Second, all assets and facilities in a given geographic location (such as Norfolk, Virginia) would be turned over to this new organization without anyone moving physically. The new organization then would develop a growth plan to assume new areas incrementally as it gains the capacity to do so. This process would take anywhere from 5 to 7 years before all continental United States (CONUS) facilities could be incorporated effectively into the support command. Therefore, it is imperative that the selection of the senior leaders be made with the utmost care. They should be chosen with the idea that they will be left in place longer than a typical assignment, indeed long enough to develop a vision and see it through implementation.
Within 2 or 3 years after startup of the support command, redundancy should start to become obvious. Serv-ice parochialism would fall away when the command's organizational needs are satisfied without each component having to look only to its parent Service for answers. After just a few short years, DOD no longer would constitute a collection of different bases for each Serv-ice but instead would consist of fewer defense installations where the Services trained together and received support from a common logistics support group. Combatant commanders no longer would look toward different Services for warm bases to support dominant maneuver and focused logistics; they would look toward CINCSUP for a slice of an existing joint installation.
Benefits of the Support Command
The proposed support command would develop joint bases responsible for training and exercises as well as everyday support. The joint base would provide one-stop shopping for the CINC. In turn, life would become simpler for the CINC. The new command would eliminate duplication of efforts, which in turn would reduce the footprint in the theater. It would create an environment where all forces would be dealing with common organizations on a regular basis. When major exercises were performed, the combatant forces would look to their joint bases for the support tail that must follow. They no longer would look toward different sources for different pieces of support. No longer would forces come from one location and the support element from another, completely different location. Forces truly would train as they would fight.
General Michael Ryan has suggested that the Air Force consolidate support units at four to six superbases located throughout the United States. He wants to reorganize to get rid of excess infrastucture and relieve the pressure caused by establishing bases at crisis points such as Bosnia, the Middle East, and Africa. His concern is that combat units deploy at a moment's notice. Support units such as food service, engineer, and medical are not organized for immediate overseas deployment. Why should this idea just be for the Air Force?
Natural working relationships would form among the staffs of the forces commands, Support Command, and TRANSCOM. These working relationships would no longer have to form each time a major exercise was undertaken or, even more importantly, in the event of a real crisis. Because of this training commonality, logistics and support would be ready to flow immediately to a theater, whether mature or immature. There would be no difference in the two theaters because there would be no learning curve for the staff performing the various support functions.
The support command would have global responsibilities in peacetime and wartime. Global teams therefore could be formed to staff and develop the support infrastructure with either a regional focus or a force focus, depending on the needs of the geographical combatant commander. In other words, the combatant commander truly would be supported.
"Thinking outside the box" is necessary to develop solutions to those factors impeding implementation of Joint Vision. I present the support command initiative as just such thinking. I believe that this initiative is the only practical way DOD truly can reengineer and garner the huge amounts of money needed to fund weapons modernization and develop new ways to provide the structure needed for dominant maneuver and focused logistics. Obviously, a number of details will require study and analysis to develop the support command. I have provided only a broad overview of where DOD needs to go and how to start. We must proceed while implementing Joint Vision, supporting the combatant commanders, and sustaining our readiness and flexibility. The journey will be challenging, and it should be interesting. ALOG
Nolan P. Welborn is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Personnel, Military Traffic Management Command Deployment Support Command, Fort Eustis, Virginia. He recently graduated from the Naval War College as part of the Defense Leadership and Management Program. This article was prepared originally for the Naval War College.