Units at the National Training Center (NTC) at
Fort Irwin, California, often have difficulty synchronizing
their combat service support (CSS) planning and execution.
As a result, logistics ceases to be anticipatory and becomes
almost completely reactive. Although many articles have been
written over the past 10 to 15 years stressing the importance
of logistics synchronization in supporting the maneuver commander’s
plan, little has changed at the NTC since Colonel Stephen F.
Garrett published his article, “Synchronizing Battlefield
Logistics,” in the March–April 1997 issue of Military
Review. He cited fourth quarter fiscal year 1994 trends at
combat training centers: “Units are not synchronizing
CSS planning with the OPLAN [operation plan]. Result: CSS staff
officers are reacting rather than acting to support requirements.”
In today’s information-centric environment, logistics planners have become
increasingly focused on information as the key to mission success. However, as
Garrett pointed out—
So how can logisticians use information to determine
how they want to shape the battlespace? CSS units must carefully
synchronize logistics with the units they support. The support
battalion synchronizes logistics with the maneuver brigade
commander’s plan and intent.
Field Manual (FM) 1–02, Operational Terms and Graphics, defines synchronization
as “(1) The arrangement of military actions in time, space, and purpose
to produce maximum relative combat power at a decisive place and time. . . .
(2) In the intelligence context, application of intelligence sources and methods
in concert with the operational plan.” I believe that synchronization in
the logistics context is the application of logistics resources and functions
in concert with the operation plan. To synchronize logistics within a brigade
combat team (BCT), at least two things are required: a process and a tangible
result of that process—the synchronization matrix.
Logistics Planning Process
Merely participating in the brigade military decisionmaking process (MDMP) is
not enough. At the NTC, we see many problems with the brigade logistics planning
process. First, the right combination of players for logistics planning is never
present for the planning process. FM-Interim (FMI) 3–90.6, The Heavy Brigade
Combat Team, specifies that the logistics planners in the heavy brigade are the
brigade executive officer, S–1, S–4, surgeon, chaplain, and the brigade
support battalion (BSB) commander and support operations officer (SPO).
Another problem is that, at the brigade level, the MDMP seldom focuses sufficiently
on logistics. Instead, it usually keys in on the next significant brigade tactical
operation. However, FMI 4–90.1, Heavy Brigade Combat Team Logistics, indicates
that logistics should be integrated into the BCT planning process. A third problem
is that the results of the logistics planning that takes place are not published
in a usable form, such as a logistics synchronization matrix, Annex I (the operation
order annex that covers service and support), or CSS graphics (a graphic portrayal
of the brigade or unit logistics set for a given operation).
Logistics Synchronization Matrix
At the NTC, attendance at BCT combined arms rehearsals usually includes the BCT
commander and other personnel down to the separate company commanders. However,
the CSS rehearsal that is normally planned to follow the combined arms rehearsal
is either not conducted or not conducted to standard and has inadequate BCT attendance
So how can this problem be fixed? The first step is to look at the process. As
Colonel Garrett stated, logisticians “need a logistics synchronization
process similar to the targeting board process used by the field artillery (FA)
to synchronize fire support with the mission needs and the commander’s
intent.” This “logistics targeting” meeting should be “a
formal, daily, and continuous process that turns information into board decision.” The
process is commonly referred to as a logistics synchronization meeting, and it
focuses on integrating the key CSS assets and requirements into the BCT’s
How do the BCT and the support battalion conduct this logistics targeting process?
As with the brigade maintenance meeting, there has to be a “hammer”—someone
who will ensure that the process takes place and that the right personnel participate
to achieve the desired results. I recommend that the “hammer” be
the BCT executive officer (XO) and that the meeting happen either directly after
the brigade maintenance meeting or in conjunction with it. All of the logistics
personnel in the BCT, such as the BCT XO, battalion XO, BSB commander, BSB SPO,
and BSB S–4, attend the brigade maintenance meeting. The rest of the logistics
planners (BCT S–1, BCT surgeon, and chaplain) can be asked to attend. A
representative from the BCT S–3 also should attend the meeting to provide
a by-task-force picture of the BCT. This is essential, especially in stability
The logistics targeting process should be organized by task force, by mission,
and by day (in increments of 24-, 48-, and 72-hours) in order to focus logistics
and synchronize with the BCT by task force and mission. This targeting process
will enable the BCT to apply the right logistics resources at the right point
and time on the battlefield to best support the brigade commander’s intent.
The chart above provides an example of a synchronization matrix that can be used
as a framework for the synchronization process.
matrix similar to this can be used to organize the
logistics synchronization process.
Determining the Desired Meeting Output
In the FA targeting board process, the output is a targeting board matrix that
codifies, according to Colonel Garrett, “the who, what, when, where and
why questions that put fire support on the battlefield at the proper time and
place in relationship to mission and commander’s intent.” In the
logistics world, planners need to codify the same issues in a logistics targeting
matrix that synchronizes logistics across the time and space of the brigade battlefield.
FM 1–02 defines the synchronization matrix as a “format for the staff
to record the results of wargaming and synchronize the course of action across
time, space, and purpose in relation to the enemy’s most likely course
of action.” The staff can readily translate a synchronization matrix
into a graphic decisionmaking product, such as a decision support matrix. Each
operating system can develop its own synchronization matrix with more details
on specific tasks.
A logistics synchronization matrix should be distributed to each task force (easily
done if all BCT representatives are present at the synchronization meeting) and
updated daily. Many options are available
for packaging the information on the matrix, such as by class of supply or tactical
logistics function. The most important factor, however, is that it allows the
logisticians to paint the CSS picture for the BCT and coordinate that with the
Too often at the NTC, we see units that start
with a synchronization matrix that does not change during the
14 training days.
We see some synchronization matrices
list supply point operational hours for the BCT but synchronize nothing. We
also see targeting or synchronization processes that occur
on tactical operations
center tracking boards, but they are not distributed properly and synchronize
nothing but the BSB SPO shops.
A focused logistics targeting process that produces
an organized, intelligible product is vital to synchronizing
operations across the brigade battlespace.
The brigade logistics targeting meeting and synchronization matrix are
two key components of logistics success for units, not only
at the NTC but also
Major Kenneth W. Letcher is the Brigade Support Battalion Support Operations
Officer Trainer at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
He has a B.S. degree in English from Vanderbilt University and is a graduate
of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains
Career Course, and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.