Options for a Joint Support Service

February 03, 2020
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Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hughes has served in roles from Platoon Leader to the Joint Staff with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and operational deployments to Africa and Haiti.  He is presently the Commander of 10th Field Hospital, a 148 bed deployable hospital.  He can be found on Twitter @medical_leader, manages the Medical Service Corps Leader Development Facebook page, and writes for The Medical Leader.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  “The Department of Defense will reform its business practices to gain the full benefit of every dollar spent, and to gain and hold the trust of the American people. We must be good stewards of the tax dollars allocated to us. Results and accountability matter[1].” – Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

Date Originally Written:  December 24, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without dynamic modernization solutions the DoD will be unable to sharpen the American Military’s competitive edge and realize the National Defense Strategy’s vision of a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force. While DoD’s strategic guidance has evolved, its force structure has not.

Background:  Common support roles across the military create redundant overhead, separate doctrines, equipment and force designs, development and acquisition processes, and education and recruiting programs. Resources are scarce, yet organizations within DoD compete against each other developing three of everything when the DoD only requires one joint capability to support the operational requirement.

The Department’s sloth-like system and redundant capabilities across services create an opportunity for change. Reform and efficiencies realized in manpower, resources, and overhead cost directly support Lines of Effort One and Three of the National Defense Strategy[2]. Consolidation efforts could realize a 20-40% overhead[3], training, and equipment savings while providing the Joint Force access to low density, high demand capabilities.  Each Armed Service recruits, trains, and educates; develops policy, doctrine, and equipment; and manages careers separately for similar requirements. A review of similar capabilities across the services illustrates 16 commodities that could possibly be consolidated:

  • Human Resources
  • Logistics
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Intelligence
  • Medical
  • Cyber
  • Public Affairs
  • Religious
  • Finance
  • Contracting
  • Legal
  • Military Police / Criminal Investigation Forces
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
  • Operations Research/Systems Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulations

Significance:  Similar reform efforts – health care transition from the services to the Defense Health Agency – have or will produce significant savings and efficiencies. Dollars saved focus scarce resources on combat readiness and lethality at the tip of the spear.

Option #1:  The DoD establishes a separate Armed Service focused on Joint Support.

The commodities listed above are consolidated into a separate Joint Support Service with Title 10 authorities commensurate with line requirements. The line (other Services) provides the requirement and “buys” what they need. This system is similar to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) relationship with the U.S. Navy (USN) regarding medical support. In this relationship the USMC defines their requirement and “buys” the commodity from the USN.

Risk:  Armed Service requirements documents are esoteric and do not allow the Joint Support Service to plan for force structure and requirements to meet those concepts.

Gain:  Option #1 ensures commonality and interoperability for the Joint Force (e.g., one scalable Damage Control Surgery set versus 8-10 service sets; fuel distribution systems that can support all forces; management of low density, high demand assets (Trauma Surgeons, Chaplains etc)).

Option #2:  The DoD pursues “Pockets of Excellence.”

The commodities listed above are centralized into a single existing Armed Service. The Secretary of Defense would redesign or select an Armed Service to manage a commodity, removing it from the other Armed Services. The lead Armed Service for a specific commodity then produces capacity that meets other Armed Service’s operational demands while building capability, doctrine, equipment, education and recruiting center of excellence for that commodity.

Risk:  The Armed Services, with resident expertise in specific commodities may impose their doctrine on other services instead of building a true joint capability that supports line operations across multiple Armed Services.

Gain:  The Armed Services are more likely to support this effort if they receive the manpower and appropriations increasing their bottom line.

Option #3:  Hybrid.

Each Armed Service develops commodity talent at the junior officer / Non-Commissioned Officer level much like today. This talent transfers into the Joint Support Service, providing support at “Echelons above Brigade,” later in their career.

Risk:  This option increases overhead in the Department by building a Joint Support Force without eliminating existing Armed Service requirements.

Gain:  This option would create a Joint Support Force that brings understanding of Armed Service systems, culture, and requirements.

Other Comments:  Lethality requires a support force organized for innovation that delivers performance at the speed of relevance, commensurate with line operational requirements, using a global operating model. The Armed Services hurt themselves by competing within the DoD. This competing leaves the overall DoD unable to produce a streamlined force using rapid, iterative approaches from development to fielding, that directly supporting the defeat of U.S. enemies, while protecting the American people and their vital interests at a sustainable cost to the taxpayer.

Recommendation:  None.


This article appeared originally at Divergent Options.

Endnotes:

[1] Mattis, J. N. (2018, January 19). Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/

[2] LOE 1: Rebuilding Military Readiness as we build a more lethal Joint Force; LOE 2: Reform the Department’s business practices for greater performance and affordability.

[3] German military reform forecasted a reduced total force by 18% while tripling the readiness force availability to support crisis management deployments. Larger cost savings should be expected in a force that is much larger than the German military. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/opinion/30thu2.html



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