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Research Synopsis

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Research Questions

  1. What does the current Army retrograde process look like?
  2. How well does that process play out in a combat zone?
  3. What data need to be collected to inform the planning process?
  4. Can planning factors be developed that will more accurately predict retrograde workload?
  5. Can methodology be repeated as new data become available?

Retrograde is the movement or return of both serviceable and unserviceable materiel back through the distribution system to a designated ship-to location, repair facility, or point of disposal. To plan for and field a force capable of efficient retrograde operations, the Army must possess accurate planning factors, by class of supply, to estimate the retrograde workload that will occur, both during ongoing theater operations and during redeployment operations. The flow of retrograde during operations over the past decade has been very slow. This has led to an almost continuous backlog in theater of materiel to be retrograded that the Army had difficulty eliminating. It appears that the Army regularly underresourced the theater organizations involved in retrograde operations, in part due to inadequate retrograde planning factors. To address this problem, RAND Arroyo Center developed and demonstrated a repeatable methodology for developing accurate retrograde planning factors, informed by process mapping, empirical data analysis, and discussions with Army supply officers. The methodology determines retrograde planning factors as a percentage of customer issues and is agnostic to theater, theater development, and unit type variances. The output of this report is a series of retrograde planning factors, by class of supply and by phase of operation, expressed as a percentage of forward flows of supplies to units.

Key Findings

The Immediate Output of This Effort Was a Series of Retrograde Maps and Planning Factors

  • This report maps the Army's retrograde process, presents an overview of responsible organizations and a listing of relevant doctrine, and relates peer insights regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the current retrograde system.
  • During OEF and OIF, the Army underresourced organizations involved with retrograde operations, in part because of inadequate retrograde planning factors. By expanding the sources of data, planning factors can be developed that more accurately predict retrograde workload.
  • A methodology was developed to generate the improved planning factors included in this report. This methodology can be used to update the planning factors as new data become available.


  • The Army should use RAND's methodology to develop future retrograde planning factors.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two


  • Chapter Three

    Army Theater Retrograde Structure in Southwest Asia and Associated Organizations

  • Chapter Four

    Data and Standard Army Management Information Systems

  • Chapter Five

    Development of Methodology

  • Chapter Six


  • Chapter Seven

    Discussion with Supply Officers

  • Appendix A

    SARSS Transactions

  • Appendix B

    SARSS Transactions

  • Appendix C

    SSAs by Year

  • Appendix D

    Ammunition Supply Sites

  • Appendix E

    Planning Factors by Class for Notional Retrograde Phases

  • Appendix F

    Planning Factors by Non–Class IX and Class IX for Notional Retrograde Phases

  • Appendix G

    Planning Factors by Class and Region for Notional Retrograde Phases

  • Appendix H

    Planning Factors by Class and Region for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn Phases

  • Appendix I

    Class V Planning Factors

  • Appendix J

    Nondoctrinal Support Activities

  • Appendix K

    Selected Quotes from Retrograde Doctrine

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4 Army, in close collaboration with the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command. It was conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center’s Military Logistics Program.

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