Examining the plethora of “combined arms” definitions, most noticeable is the repeated use of the words integrated, complementary, and simultaneous. For Combat Service Support (CSS) elements, our contribution to combined arms is the integrated, complementary, and simultaneous provision of sustainment to combat and combat support elements. As one of the seven warfighting functions, sustainment (encompassing supply, maintenance, distribution, health services, contract support, human resources and financial management) must integrate with and complement the operational plan to support the commander’s intent.
As a logistic officer, my contribution to the combined arms team encompasses the spectrum of planning through to the provision of sustainment resources, services, and support required by a dependency. However, to be integrated, complementary, and simultaneous, CSS elements must be able to operate in the same environment, tempo, and threats as their dependency.
The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) and the Ukraine conflict have demonstrated that traditionally soft CSS targets need to be harder to find, harder to hit, and more adaptable to changing terrain. The use of satellites, drones, and electronic warfare requires CSS to be more concealed, dispersed, and less identifiable to enemy detection. CSS needs to be self-sufficient and hardened to protect itself and repel attacks when operating between or rearward of friendly combat forces.
As described in the DSR, the littoral environment will likely become Australia’s next battlefield and CSS will need to simultaneously sustain across land, sea, and riverine environments.
The current generation of soldiers are preparing for these likelihoods. CSS elements are getting smaller and more concealed, less susceptible to detection, self-sufficient and hardened, proficient with heavy weapons, tactically adept at utilising protected vehicle platforms, adaptable to changing terrain, and specialising in littoral distribution amongst Australia’s northern partner regions.
CSS personnel continue to build their technical expertise to support emerging fleets and systems. As the ADF procures more complex equipment, highly trained personnel are required to manage and sustain smart munitions, modern manned and unmanned vehicles, and advanced battlespace command and control systems. Tactical proficiency is considered as important as technical knowledge with the DSR heavily influencing how CSS soldiers train for future conflict.
CSS encompasses the whole spectrum of sustainment to personnel, equipment, and strategy – but not at the cost of itself; CSS must survive in order to sustain. By continuing to develop smart people, systems, and tactics; CSS’s integrated, complementary, and simultaneous support enables the commander to achieve their objectives as part of the combined arms team.