Maritime Logistics in a Changing Strategic Environment – Part 2

This issue includes the second excerpt from Rear Adm. Peter Stamatopoulos’ publication “Maritime Logistics in a Changing Strategic Environment: A Supply Officer’s Perspective.” Each excerpt will offer valuable insight detailing how the Supply Corps plays a critical role in supporting the Navy. Part two takes a close look at Navy planning. You may read the document in its entirety on the eSUPPO app.


Background and Context

Planning in some form occurs within all military organizations on a near daily basis. Next year’s budget, the annual training schedule and the optimum quantity of ordnance to hold in reserve are all legitimate planning concerns. But the topic of this section is much broader in scope. The focus here will be on joint military planning at the strategic level, with a general discussion of some peripheral considerations. One critical element of the process must be emphasized in any study of planning, be the subject movement of armies, deployment of naval forces or this quarter’s purchase of consumables. And that is … logistics is the foundation of planning and the ultimate enabler of operations.

The planning process is also germane to this publication because of its impact as a requirements driver. Contingency planners, working within the framework described here, occasionally identify the need for a capability that is not readily available, or in some cases, may not even exist. That warfighting “gap” must be addressed if the operational commander’s ability to execute the plan is to be properly supported. The process for bridging that gap falls under the general heading of Force Development, which includes requirements identification, acquisition, budgeting, maintenance and modernization and life cycle support. It is also the synchronization and integration of these and other elements and processes to prepare units for maintenance and deployment cycles. Force Development is the topic of the next section.

Finally, we must bear in mind that, even though we may operate routinely in a Navy environment, we will ultimately deploy and fight within the joint chain of command. This section establishes the foundation for understanding where our Carrier Strike Groups, Amphibious Ready Groups and other deployers fit into the joint construct.

Geographic Combatant Commanders

There is a wide range of guidance that defines and directs the national military strategy. Among those high level documents is the Unified Command Plan (UCP), which has immediate relevance to this section from a structural perspective. The UCP, which is approved at the Presidential level, establishes Combatant Commander missions and roles. It further delineates geographic responsibilities across the following organizations: U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). These Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCCs) are directly tasked with conducting military operations and warfighting execution within their regions as assigned by the UCP.

Figure F. Depiction of Geographic Combatant Commander’s Areas of Responsibility per the Unified Command Plan


Although the GCCs are the driving forces behind Operation Plan (OPLAN) development within their respective Areas of Responsibility (AOR), they are not the ultimate decision makers with respect to which contingencies merit planning consideration. Those judgments are made at the national level and tasked to the Combatant Commanders via the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP). The JSCP not only provides direction on the scenarios that will serve as the basis for planning, it further specifies the level of detail to which the plan will be constructed.

GCCs and Deploying Navy Units

The focus of this section is operational planning, but the role of the Geographic Combatant Commander also has daily applicability to our naval forces. We tend to think of the various Fleet Commanders as the ultimate operational leadership of our units. For example, ships deployed to the Mediterranean are viewed as Sixth Fleet assets … and those we deploy to the Arabian Gulf are considered Fifth Fleet assets. But the numbered Fleet Commanders must in turn answer to standing operational chains of command that are external to U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U. S. Pacific Fleet. The Sixth Fleet Commander reports to Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Europe, who works directly for the GCC Commander, U. S. European Command (USEUCOM). The Fifth Fleet counterpart reports to U. S. Forces Central Command (USCENTCOM) via Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT). These GCCs, and their peers around the world, bear the ultimate operational responsibility for the units transferred into their Areas of Responsibility (AORs). This includes the Navy’s Carrier Strike Groups, Amphibious Ready Groups, Surface Action Groups, and submarines.

In order to provide global presence and support for ongoing operations, the services routinely provide rotational forces to the GCCs. Ships embarking on planned deployments are typically included in the “rotational” category. The process through which these movements are managed is known as Global Force Management (GFM). The GCCs, Joint Staff and services all have a critical role in adjudicating and sourcing forces for the SECDEF, who serves as final approval authority. The output for this process is known as the Global Forces Management Allocation Plan (GFMAP). In addition to rotational forces, the services must maintain adequate capacity in support of emergent GCC requirements. These are commonly known as surge forces.

Joint Planning and Execution Community

When the JSCP directs the formulation of a new OPLAN, the appropriate GCC is tasked with primary responsibility for its development. But the effort to build a quality product requires the support and cooperation of the entire Joint Planning and Execution Community (JPEC) as depicted in Figure G.

This illustration rates a very careful review. The cognizant GCC is identified in the diagram as the “Supported Commander.” He or she is directly supported in the planning effort by supporting GCCs as well as subordinate service Component Commanders, who provide critical input to basic plan development. Concurrently, those service components build their own discrete supporting plans which define their actions in detail within the framework of the larger scenario.

The GCC is also supported by the services, their infrastructure and their associated logistics agencies. Their role is critical to the validity and success of the OPLAN. The services, as the force providers, must program resources and manpower to a level that enables operations as defined in the plans. They also have an obligation to ensure that the supported and supporting GCC’s components are populated with personnel who are trained, equipped and in all ways prepared to accomplish the mission as tasked.

The U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) is one of three “functional” Combatant Commands with responsibilities and missions that extend beyond the constraints of a geographic boundary. USTRANSCOM is perhaps the most visible supporting combatant commander associated with any OPLAN. USTRANSCOM and its subordinate components, Surface Deployment and Distribution Center (SDDC – Army), Air Mobility Command (AMC – Air Force), Military Sealift Command (MSC—Navy) are the lynchpins to successful plan development and execution. All OPLANs require movement of personnel and equipment, some of them on a monumental scale. The USTRANSCOM organization will bear the responsibility for their delivery to the fight. Because they control the assets that move the forces, no plan can be considered valid until USTRANSCOM has analyzed it and declared it “transportation feasible.”

Considering today’s trans-regional threat environment, every OPLAN requires the engagement of multiple Combatant Commanders, both geographic and functional. In addition to the transportation role previously described, functional Combatant Commanders may be called upon to provide special forces, surveillance or other services. Other GCCs may be tasked to provide forces or staging bases for forward movement of personnel and materiel to the affected AOR. Because the level of connectivity and interdependence across all Combatant Commanders is so high, they may all be required to participate in development of a given plan.

With so many entities and organizations involved, plan development can be a complex and laborious endeavor. The responsible GCC must coordinate, analyze and integrate the inputs from all members of the JPEC and meticulously refine the plan prior to USTRANSCOM’s feasibility check. Once the GCC approves the plan, it is reviewed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) prior to its ultimate approval by the Secretary of Defense and the President. It is then reviewed continuously to maintain currency and consistency with mission needs and capability changes.

Planning and Budgeting – The Navy Connection

Because the primary purpose of our nation’s military is to defend the United States and its interests around the globe, it is incumbent on those within our service who manage our resources and hold the purse strings to orient their allocations toward warfighter support. Every dollar spent on manpower, maintenance, equipment, etc., should be linked in some way to that end. To illustrate, there may be several degrees of separation between the purchase of a computer at an administrative command in Jacksonville and a hypothetical forward deployed unit. But the connection should exist nonetheless. Let’s consider it this way … the computer in Jacksonville may be purchased to (a) manage the records of (b) the sailor undergoing training to (c) prepare him or her to serve as a Sonar Technician, imminently to be (d) assigned to an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, which will (e) deploy next year to the Arabian Gulf. There are other times, however, when there are zero degrees of separation between the warfighter forward and the funding source on the CNO staff at the Pentagon. A previous paragraph in this section discussed the roles of the services and their staffs in support of OPLAN development. The discussion must now be expanded to incorporate the Navy budgeting process in relation to that effort. As our aggregated national military strategy drives GCC planning and readiness for contingencies, so does that GCC planning process, in turn, drive Navy funding priorities.

A GCC may be tasked to develop an OPLAN to defend a friendly co untry against a hostile neighbor that also happens to be a common foe. In support of that plan, the Navy component may be tasked to protect a seaport while the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group’s cargo handlers offload ordnance from MSC vessels and position it ashore at an Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). In order to accomplish the mission the component must define the requisite units and capabilities in a supporting plan. The ships, ordnance, cargo handlers, ASP manpower and material handling and civil engineering support equipment must be identified and incorporated into the plan if it is to be efficiently executed. If any of th e critical elements do not exist, or if their employment conflicts with a higher priority plan, the Navy component commander must then address the “gap” with service he adquarters. This would usually be accomplished by defining the gap in the component’s Integrated Priority List (IPL), which, after validation, is forwarded to the Navy staff for budgeting consideration.

Gap Identification

The mechanics by which GCC identified gaps are presented to the services could easily occupy a chapter in and of itself, but an abbreviated version will suffice here.

The planning process is conducted through the application of strategic, operational, and tactical tasks. To use the example in the preceding paragraph as an illustration, the GCC staff, through its planning efforts, would identify the need for the Universal Joint Task (UJT) of “Provide Protection.” The component would then likely convert that to the Navy Tactical Task of (NTA) “Provide Security for Operational Forces and Means,” which would then be further defined as “Provide Harbor Defense and Port Security.” The task, together with the Projected Operating Environment (POE) – which includes both the physical and threat environment –creates the need for a capability. To summarize, a hypothetical capability requirement might be: to “conduct port security from the sea with the ability to pursue into the littorals; provide a minimum endurance of twenty days on station, and provide the ability to counter a FAC/FIAC threat.” Figure H illustrates the complex relationships between missions, tasks, threats, and capabilities.

Figure H. Capability-Mission Lattice 2.0 (Source: Joint Capabilities Integration & Development System (JCIDS) Manual)


If the capability exists but is not sourced, the GCC staff will formally appeal to the appropriate service (via the Joint Staff) with a request for forces (RFF). If the component does not have the capability or capacity to perform the function, the requirement is presented to the service as a capability gap through the previously discussed IPL process or submitted as an Urgent Operational Need (UON). The services must then adjudicate the gap and identify potential operational contract or DOTMLPF solutions. Note: Not all capacity or capability gaps require a material solution.

Introduction to the PPBE

Via the Navy’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) system, the component’s IPL requirement is validated and adjudicated for funding by the appropriate Resource Sponsor on the Navy staff (see Annex A for a comprehensive discussion). The requirement illustrated in this example is likely to receive priority funding consideration because of its direct applicability to the GCC’s OPLAN – literally zero degrees of separation from the war fighter. Obviously, the PPBE system encompasses far more than Navy compo nent and GCC IPL needs. It is the process through which all Navy funding allocation decisions are justified and resourced. But it is important to remember that the entire PPBE effort is ultimately designed to facilitate our Navy’s ability to support our National Military Strategy and the warfighting combatant commander.

The emerging threats and tilts in the global balance of power discussed in the Maritime Strategy section of this paper will certainly influence future high level national defense guidance and GCC operational planning. The newly ascendant “great powers,” the elevated importance of maritime choke points and, most importantly, the need to develop cross d omain warfighting solutions, all present new and unprecedented challenges to the planner. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups might well soon find themselves employed in non-traditional ways, and the requirement for new and expanded capabilities may increase as the complexity of new threats evolves. In fact, the very composition of the Strike Groups and the capabilities they deliver are ultimately impacted by the planning process.

Uncertainty proliferates within this construct, but one thing remains evident … and that is the need for resources to confront the changing global security environment. Those requirements will be defined by the GCC and its components, and programmed and delivered through Joint and Service acquisition and budgeting systems.

The processes by which an entirely new major capability is iden tified and procured via the Defense Acquisition System are a topic in a later section.


A careful examination of the planning process and its impact on the Service budgets should reveal important roles for the logisticians at all points throughout. The GCC and component staffs require experienced logisticians from each service to define and quantify materiel and transportation needs to make the plans valid. Supporting commanders like USTRANSCOM are heavily populated with professional transporters who understand how to move resources and personnel on a massive scale. The budgeting and logistics functions on the Navy staff are a core expertise for Supply Corps officers. From the pinnacle of the JPEC pyramid to the Supply Officer deployed afloat to the Arabian Gulf, our Navy cannot perform its demanding mission without the expertise and energy of its professional logisticians. A thorough understanding of these processes will become increasingly critical as we adjust our thinking and practices to meet the challenges of emerging threats and new warfare domains.

Look for the third excerpt in the next issue of “The Navy Supply Corps Newsletter.”

Winter 2019