Academic journal article Military Review

Operational Contract Support: The Missing Ingredient in the Army Operating Concept

Academic journal article Military Review

Operational Contract Support: The Missing Ingredient in the Army Operating Concept

Article excerpt

The U.S. Army Operating Concept (AOC) describes how our future Army will prevent conflict and shape security environments while operating within a complex environment as part of the joint force. The concept highlights many of the capabilities required to shape security environments and conduct advanced expeditionary maneuver.1

The new concept, however, overlooks at least one essential factor that will shape future conflict for better or worse. Receiving no attention within the AOC, operational contract support (OCS)-the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services, and construction from commercial sources in support of joint operations-has and will continue to play a critical role in our ability to deploy, fight, and win our nation's wars (see figure, page 55).2

This article demonstrates the importance of the OCS process within the AOC. Moreover, it highlights several key points about OCS that are important for Army commanders.

Importance of Operational Contract Support

OCS continues to be overlooked because commanders and planners tend to pigeonhole it as a sustainment function requiring attention only after major combat operations commence.3 This tendency ignores three important facts.

First, Phase 0 (shaping) operations play a vital role in national security efforts. For example, during fiscal year (FY) 2014 in Africa, U.S. forces conducted sixty-eight missions, including counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief, and they supported eleven major exercises and 595 security cooperation activities designed to promote stability and prosperity. While some of these missions were Phase III (dominate) operations designed to find and defeat terrorist networks, the overwhelming majority were Phase 0 operations designed to help our allies and deter adversaries in a region of rapidly increasing strategic importance.4

Second, these types of operations depend heavily- and often totally-on commercial support. Geopolitical considerations, host-nation restrictions, and extended lines of communication often limit the size and shape of military deployments. However, soldiers who deploy must rely on commercial support for such basic needs as communications, base life support, and logistics.5 To illustrate, the Army's 413th Contracting Support Brigade conducted twenty-nine expeditionary missions in the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) area of responsibility during FY 2016. These contracting activities supported deployed military forces while strengthening relations with our allies and building a reliable vendor base for future operations.6

Third, OCS provides more than just logistics. While access to commercial support significantly enhances sustainment capabilities, the OCS process also provides responsiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency across the full spectrum of warfighting capabilities and functions. These include security, construction, training, translators, and intelligence analysis. Military communications networks are especially dependent on commercial support. The Defense Information Systems Agency employs a series of contracts to provide the information-technology backbone that allow commanders to exercise mission command over far-flung operations around the globe.7 As the Army confronts an era of shrinking force structure and increasing social, political, and economic complexity, the commander's ability to integrate OCS within his or her operational-design concept plays an increasingly important role.8

This is an important point. OCS enables commanders to respond effectively to a number of warfighting challenges identified within the AOC, including the Army's responsibility to shape security environments; provide security force assistance; conduct entry operations; conduct wide area security; and set the theater, sustain operations, and maintain freedom of movement.9

What Commanders Really Need to Know

Commanders need to know six key points about OCS:

* OCS is here to stay. …

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