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Army aims to keep supply chain churning, says Gen. Perna

By David Vergun, Army News Service October 17, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Army relies on industry, as well as its own organic base, to repair and maintain weapons and equipment through the supply chain, said Gen. Gustave F. Perna.

Over the last 16 years, however, that supply chain has "atrophied for many reasons," Perna said, "one of which was we didn't use certain types of equipment."

Perna, commander of U.S. Army Materiel Command, spoke during a media roundtable, Oct. 10, at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition here.

Abrams tanks, Bradleys and Strykers were not heavily used in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly over the last eight years of counterinsurgency operations and advise, train and assist missions, he said.

"When you don't use it, equipment doesn't break. When equipment doesn't break, you don't replace repair parts. When you don't replace repair parts, you don't buy them. Then industry doesn't stock them. The supply chain then atrophies," he explained.

If the supply chain atrophies, parts are not available in time of dire need, such as during a surge or major operation, he said.

It wasn't just the tanks, Bradleys and Strykers that were underused, however. Certain types of communications gear, weapons and logistic support systems were also not heavily used, most notably because the Army went to "white truck" or contractor-based logistics, in its forward operating bases, he said.

One notable exception to the atrophy, he noted, is aviation. Over the course of the last 16 years, the demand for aviation was and still is very strong.

Another cause of supply-chain atrophy, Perna said, relates to lack of funding to purchase parts and equipment. That is due to two causes: the 2011 Budget Control Act, plus several years of continuing resolutions in lieu of a budget.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command's system of replenishment is funded through the Army working capital fund, he explained.

"In order to use that money, you have to be able to sell what you have on hand," he said. "It's a business. So if there's not a big year of sell, then the next year you're penalized in that you have to demonstrate demand and requirement for that piece of property."

When sequestration occurred in fiscal year 2013, there was no demand for repair parts and components and the supply chain was essentially shut down.

It wasn't until the latter half of FY15 that the operation tempo increased significantly, thereby increasing demand for parts.

In FY18 "we have double the amount of obligation authority we had in FY14" for parts and replenishment, he said, adding "I'm confident we can catch up to our requirements."

The big caveat to this, he said, is if sequestration kicks in this winter.

"The impact would be catastrophic," he said.


Perna touched on a couple of other topics, including Army preposition stocks, or APS.

Those APS are located around the world so that combatant commanders don't have to wait for equipment and supplies to cross oceans and continents from the U.S., should the need arise.

U.S. Army Materiel Command is now "ensuring that equipment is configured for combat so that it has a shoot, move and communicate capability, ready to be issued to Soldiers within 96 hours of arrival," he said.

The makeup of that equipment at each location is classified, but the Army chief of staff has given direction as to where he wants those munitions to be, given the levels and types of threats faced, he said.

When equipment is reset, it gets repaired, new parts, and a complete overhaul. Besides that, it also receives all of the latest upgrades, Perna said. Gear in APS is first in line to receive that reset materiel, he said.

"Soldiers drawing that equipment should have confidence in using that equipment and they know it's the best we have," he said.


Perna said he's particularly proud of the "artisans" working at the 23 depots, arsenals and plants across the U.S., who are providing "incredible capability."

Over the last 16 years of war, that workforce "brought equipment out of the fight and reset it, extending its life," he said, instead of creating "an iron mountain" junkyard.

In terms of reset, it's sometimes cheaper to use commercial industry, he said. "They're a great partner. We need them with us. But we also need to maintain the capability of the depots.

"You don't create a welder putting welds on a Stryker, Abrams or Bradley right out of high school," he said. "These are artisans who've been trained, who know how to put the welds on that will withstand blasts. So here's my question. Do you want to put your son or daughter in a tanks Bradley or Stryker that has a trained artisan doing that work or do you want to have the quickest and cheapest?"

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