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Enabling the Responsible Drawdown of Forces Through the Theater Provided Equipment Planner

A new tool improves the disposition of non-mission-essential equipment by automating the lateral transfer, redistribution, and disposition processes.

Theater Provided Equipment (TPE) Planner is a web-based automation tool that the Army implemented in January 2010 to facilitate rapid disposition of non-mission-essential TPE in the Iraq joint operations area (IJOA). TPE Planner automates the previously time-consuming manual vetting process for theater lateral transfer, redistribution, and turn-in decisions.

TPE is managed and accounted for by the 402d Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) and hand receipted to units in the IJOA. As part of the responsible drawdown of forces and the correlating responsible reset of equipment, U.S. Forces-Iraq (USF–I) and U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) are releasing TPE for lateral transfer to other units, redistribution to other units in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, or return to CONUS-based depots for reset.

The Manual Process

Before TPE Planner was implemented, units in Iraq would submit a spreadsheet with their proposed excess equipment to the U.S. division over their area of responsibility. The division would in turn submit the request to USF–I. The USF–I J–4 asset visibility section would compare the proposed equipment lists to existing requirements in Iraq and, if needed, direct the transfer of equipment from other units within Iraq.

If the equipment was not required within Iraq, ARCENT Support Element-Iraq (ASE–I) would check for existing CENTCOM requirements. If there were no CENTCOM requirements for the equipment, Army Materiel Command life cycle management command (LCMC) representatives would provide shipping information for the depot that could repair the equipment.

Unit spreadsheets were processed intact at each level. Once the vetting process was completed to decide whether TPE was mission essential at each level, decisions and directives were published in a USF–I fragmentary order (FRAGO). The FRAGO provided the agreed-to disposition for all items. The unit could then take the equipment to a 402d AFSB retrograde property assistance team (RPAT) yard and begin the process of turning it in.

Setting Up TPE Planner

In the winter of 2008, AMC’s Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA) began building the TPE Planner to assist Multi-National Corps-Iraq (which merged with Multi-National Forces-Iraq to form USF–I in November 2009) in automating the nomination, disposition, and turn-in of TPE in order to improve velocity, synchronization, and centralized visibility of the process.

USF–I and ASE–I worked through the summer of 2009 to trim time off this process. Ultimately, disposition time was reduced from 19 days to 7 days, and the FRAGO processing time was reduced from 15 days to 3 days. Processing disposition and building reports from running lists on spreadsheets was very labor intensive, and USF–I leaders were skeptical that the process would support the increased load that would be generated by the responsible drawdown in 2010.

In the fall of 2009, LOGSA placed liaison officers (LNOs) in USF–I and ASE–I, in Baghdad and Kuwait, as part of the AMC responsible reset task force (R2TF). These officers facilitated requirements generation and conducted proof-of-principle testing to demonstrate the initial operational capability, training, and implementation of TPE Planner. TPE Planner was implemented throughout IJOA on 11 January 2010.

The TPE Planner Process

One of the reasons the USF–I J–4 and ASE–I decided to use TPE Planner was to stop working batch requests and get real-time disposition to the units. TPE Planner streamlines this manual process, displays the disposition of each individual item, and posts each item’s status in the reports section of the tool as soon as a decision is made.

The disposition process for TPE Planner begins when units manually conduct their internal vetting to determine non-mission-essential, or excess, equipment. This equipment list is sent to the brigade level manually on a spreadsheet.

The brigade leaders are the initiators in the TPE Planner process. Brigade points of contact log into LOGSA’s web portal, access TPE Planner, and view the equipment that is on the unit’s derivative unit identification code hand receipt. These data are populated in TPE Planner through a direct feed from Property Book Unit Supply-Enhanced. The user selects the identified excess equipment and hits the submit button, and the data are posted on the division-level screen. The U.S. division G-4 looks across its units and directs a lateral transfer if one of its units needs the equipment or selects “turn-in” if no one needs the equipment.

USF–I and ASE–I then have the same decision points in the tool. When ASE–I determines that the equipment is not needed, it is considered excess to theater needs and the data are sent to both the AMC LCMC and RPAT screens.

LCMCs use TPE Planner to provide the Department of Defense activity address codes needed to ship items that are not essential equipment to theater needs to designated national-level sources of repair. The RPAT yard personnel use TPE Planner to see what non-mission-essential equipment is expected in each yard and to identify equipment entering and exiting the yard. RPAT yard personnel use this information to forecast workloads and to relieve capacity friction points during surge periods.

Unlike the previously manual spreadsheet process, in which visibility of the decisions occurred only after the corps FRAGO was generated, TPE Planner gives visibility of decisions at each step in the vetting process. For items that are pending a decision, users and managers can see at what level the decision is pending and for how long.

The lateral transfer and turn-in directive report in TPE Planner populates immediately after a lateral transfer or redistribution decision is made at any level or after the LCMC representative provides source-of-repair shipping information for items that are theater excess. This gives anyone with basic Logistics Information Warehouse access the ability to view dispositions in the Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network tool and receive instructions as the decisions are made instead of waiting for all items to be moved through the system and released in a Secure Internet Protocol Router Network FRAGO.

The online disposition provided through TPE Planner has resulted in a 96-percent reduction in disposition FRAGOs, and units now receive disposition of items in an average of 4 days.

TPE Planner Training and Improvements

Before implementing TPE Planner, LOGSA provided hands-on training to participants from 4 brigades, 16 USF–I Corps separate elements, 3 divisions, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and the 402d AFSB’s theater property book offices and RPATs. The training consisted of a 2-to-4 hour block of instruction on how to apply for and receive access to TPE Planner and how to operate screens inside of the tool. Desk guides were created and released along with the implementation order in preparation for a go-live date of 11 January 2010.

Since implementation, LOGSA continues to work on emerging requirements from brigade combat teams, U.S. divisions, USF–I, ASE–I, and the 402d AFSB and continues to improve TPE Planner in order to stay current with its users’ needs. A “projected turn-in date” is now available that lets units estimate when equipment will become available for turn-in. This allows requirements officers within USF–I and ASE–I to project equipment availability for the sourcing of theater requirements. Another recent feature displays the document associated with either the turn-in or lateral transfer so viewers will see the actual transaction.

TPE Planner has streamlined the disposition process in order to facilitate rapid processing of disposition instructions within 72 hours for equipment that is declared non-mission-essential. It provides value to the Army by automating the theater’s currently manual process used to vet lateral transfer, redistribution, and disposition decisions for non-mission-essential TPE. TPE Planner improves process velocity, synchronizes actions at all levels, centralizes visibility by documenting decisions and directives at all levels in tailored reports, and provides visibility of the equipment that is due into, at, and leaving the RPAT yards. These improvements assist in forecasting workload, capacity, and transportation requirements.

LOGSA’s next step is to export this tool to Operation Enduring Freedom for use in the combined joint operational area.

Kellie Wade is an aerospace engineer in the Propulsion Operability Branch of the Aviation Engineering Directorate, Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. She has an M.S. degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University, an M.S. degree in business administration from Texas A&M University-Texarkana, and a B.S. degree in chemistry from Claflin University. She holds Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Level III certifications in system planning, research, development, and engineering (SPRDE)-program systems engineering, SPRDE-systems engineering, and life-cycle logistics.

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