The Quandary on Centralized versus Decentralized Support

One of the great things about Army installations is the centralized support they provide to tenant units, thereby allowing them to efficiently build readiness through consolidated resources.
As a brigade commander at Fort Campbell, KY, I was impressed with the Mission Support Element, and the support Directorates on post, which enabled me to conduct individual readiness tasks in an efficient centralized manner. Installation support staff were able to complete tasks such as health assessments, weapons qualification, and Soldier Readiness Process administration actions in an efficient manner across time, task, and cost, because these were routine tasks for their staff.
In comparison, these were not routine tasks for my brigade staff, who would have executed the same requirements at greater cost in time, resources and money. The Army’s new Facility Readiness Drivers link our facilities to warfighting readiness and lethality.
Yet, one big difference between the reserve component and the active component is a lack of centralized installation support. Whereas, the reserve component benefits from community based stationing, which allows our military to embed with the people they serve, it lacks most of the support that centralized basing provides.
One effort to address this dichotomy between the active and reserve components is the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) creation of Readiness Divisions (RDs) to provide centralized support in specific activities. However, the RD concept is under-utilized in supporting readiness activities that could be centralized to create an efficiency for the USAR to accomplish readiness tasks. Centralizing more tasks to the RDs leverages a core competency developed over the last decade by the RDs as regional program managers; akin to the support role of active component installations.
One successful example is the centralized planning and execution of Yellow Ribbon Readiness Program (YRRP) events for all deploying and returning reserve component units. In the past, this process was managed at the Functional Command (FC) level, who struggled to manage the process for their infrequently deploying units. By centralizing this function at the RDs by region, the USAR was able to gain cost efficiencies, effectively manage attendance, and efficiently execute events planned by subject matter experts in the same region as the target audience.
The same concept used for the YRRP, of taking relatively infrequent tasks, centralizing them to gain better execution, participation, and savings, could be applied to additional reserve component readiness tasks, thus further leveraging the RDs.
One recommendation is coordinating Mass Medical Events and Soldier Readiness Process Level 2 events at the regional level, led by the RD. Currently, many health readiness events are planned and executed by individual units. By regionally centralizing health readiness events, units could focus on getting Soldiers to events that increase their readiness, instead of planning, resourcing and executing those events at their level with their non-Subject Matter Expertise (SME) staff members. The RDs have SME’s on this task and are already conducting this task to some degree in their respective regions. Assigning these functions to the RD would free up units’ time to focus on training tasks. Implementing a tool like ‘e-invite’ through email to eligible units or participants is just one method available to notify and register Soldiers for events.
Another centralized task could be coordination of ranges for individual and crew serve weapons qualification tasks. Currently, weapons qualification is completely decentralized; planned, coordinated, resourced and executed at the unit level. While executing a weapons range can be a significant training opportunity for Soldiers within units, the planning and coordination of installation resources, such as ranges and ammunition, is completed by a handful of unit support staff, who have many unit responsibilities and PCS over time. What if the RDs planned and resourced monthly weapons qualification at regionally selected sites, coordinated ranges and ammunition draws, and collaborated with units on leading and executing the ranges? Centralizing coordination for installation resources, such as, ranges and ammunition, would further allow units to focus on getting Soldiers to the events rather than organizing an event they seldom specialize in doing. It would also enable ongoing relationships with installations where training occurs. Most regions have a limited number of locations where weapons qualification can occur, especially crew serve weapons and gunnery crew qualification. The RD could de-conflict schedules, resources, and be the single point of contact for units to the installation, and the installation to the USAR element for coordinating the constrained availability of specialized ranges.
The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) provides an opportunity for reserve component units to work together at the unit level to accomplish readiness tasks. The equipment is managed regionally by the RDs as installation property, and Center Commanders across the region will coordinate with units within their respective micro-installations to accomplish the ACFT with the resources on hand. The ACFT provides the reserve component an opportunity to collaborate at both the unit and command level on the same task. The ACFT is an opportunity for the USAR to look at readiness both vertically and horizontally. The mission command structure reports up the FC chain of command the success of the ACFT in terms of Pass and Fail as it pertains to readiness, in a vertical perspective. The RD and Center Commanders see the success of the ACFT in terms of equipment, test site locations and unit collaboration across units at their micro-installation, in a horizontal perspective. Both vertical and horizontal perspectives lend to increasing readiness at the unit level. There is a rising need for increased collaboration between FCs and RD’s. Centralizing more tasks to the RDs would further increase the need to collaborate on readiness.
With the need for collaboration in mind, another recommendation is conducting quarterly meetings between RDs and FCs to collaborate to on centralized readiness objectives within the region. As a way ahead, the 81 RD and 335 TSC, along with most other RDs and FCs, have engaged in an Effects Coordination Board (ECB) as an initial effort to begin collaboration at the general officer level for readiness objectives in the south east region. The ECB, or similar forum, presents a prime opportunity for all Commanders to participate in the change process of building readiness in the USAR.
One task already centralized to the RDs that could benefit from expansion is the appointment and training of center commanders. One recommendation is developing a USAR requirement for unit commanders with the dual responsibility of unit and center command to attend the RD hosted center commander workshops—with an objective of improving unit collaboration at the micro-installations. Another recommendation is a USAR command emphasis on the performance of dual commanders (unit and center command) in evaluation reports; as dual commanders seek to improve readiness vertically (within their command hierarchy), and horizontally (across units at their micro-installation). The FC commanders with command of a unit and a center will have greater impact on USAR readiness.
Further considerations for centralized tasks to the RDs could include: maintenance training in G-Army software systems; and coordination of mobile marksmanship training systems (replacements for the EST2000)—which would be managed similar to the ACFT equipment and unit execution.
This is not to suggest all tasks can or should be centralized. Unit cohesion and collective effort arises from units training together. However, increasing the training time that is available to units can derive from time saved through conducting centralized tasks that are coordinated and managed at the regional level by the RD’s. This is particularly true with reserve component units whose training days are limited to 39 days per year, consisting of 24 battle training assembly days and 15 annual training days. Consequently, a thorough review is needed of individual readiness tasks that can be shifted from decentralized unit management to centralized regional management to improve overall readiness, deliver a better outcome, and potentially reduce costs; ultimately benefiting our Soldiers, the USAR and US taxpayers.

MG Peter A. Bosse is Commander of the 335th Signal Command (Theatre) in East Point, GA.

MG Kenneth D. Jones is Commander of the 81st Readiness Division at Fort Jackson, SC.

Date Taken: 05.15.2019
Date Posted: 07.16.2019 17:31
Story ID: 331675

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