In my experience as a maintenance platoon leader, maintenance control officer, and brigade maintenance officer, repair parts shortages and incorrectly ordered repair parts are the main reasons that Army maintenance activities exceed the total logistics response time–maintenance as outlined in Army Regulation 750–1, Army Materiel Maintenance Policy. Parts shortages can exist on a strategic level because of the rapid fielding of a new weapons platform (such as the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle) or on an operational level because of bottlenecks at transportation hubs along the lines of communication.
Such systemic parts shortages are often beyond the tactical-level maintenance leader's ability to solve and must be mitigated through controlled substitution, cannibalization when appropriate, and improvisation. In contrast, incorrectly ordered parts are a tactical-level problem that every maintenance leader can solve by understanding how to requisition parts accurately through the Army supply system.
Creation of MILSTRIP
The Army supply system uses the Department of Defense (DOD) Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures (MILSTRIP) to order many classes of supply, including class II (clothing and individual equipment) and class IX (repair parts). MILSTRIP became the DOD standard in July 1962, replacing 16 different DOD requisitioning systems then in use. MILSTRIP standardized forms, box markings, label markings, codes, and priorities across DOD, helping to eliminate waste, promote efficiency, speed up supply actions, and reduce administrative costs.
Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, championed the introduction of MILSTRIP as part of his efforts to use modern management techniques to create efficiencies within DOD. Other reforms undertaken by McNamara included the creation of the Defense Supply Agency (later renamed the Defense Logistics Agency) to manage items used by multiple services and the establishment of the Army Materiel Command. DOD actions during the McNamara era laid the foundations of the supply system used today.
|Above are the elements of a sample MILSTRIP document, by position.
How MILSTRIP Works
MILSTRIP is first and foremost a code that communicates critical information between maintenance and supply activities about what supplies are required and where the supplies need to go. When MILSTRIP was first introduced in 1962, Soldiers used 80-position punch cards to transmit information. While the punch cards are no longer in use, the 80-position code system designed for the punch cards still is. Whenever an Army maintenance activity orders a repair part using any of the Standard Army Management Information Systems, such as the Standard Army Maintenance System–Enhanced (SAMS–E), the activity uses the 80-position MILSTRIP system, even if those 80 positions are expressed to the user in terms of drop-down menus on a computer screen.
Each 80-character packet of MILSTIP information, such as an individual repair part requisition through SAMS–E, is called a document. However, requisitions are just one type of MILSTRIP document. Other types of MILSTRIP documents include requisition statuses, requisition cancellations, requisition receipts, requisition changes, and requisition adjustments. Supply activities that cannot satisfy a customer's requisition usually use MILSTRIP documents to forward the requisition to higher-level supply activities to see if the items exist elsewhere in the supply system.
Document Identifier Codes
Each position in MILSTRIP is called a record position. Each record position can contain a number or letter or be left blank. The first three record positions, which contain the document identifier code (DIC), are the most important. The DIC is a three-position alpha-numeric code that allows both human and computer MILSTRIP users to identify the information contained in the MILSTRIP document.
When a SAMS–E user at an Army maintenance activity creates a MILSTRIP requisition and transmits the requisition to the supporting supply activity, that 80-character requisition gets assigned a DIC, depending on what kind of requisition it is. For example, when a unit located outside the continental United States (OCONUS) requests an item that has a national stock number (NSN), that requisition will receive a DIC of A01. Every MILSTRIP requisition for an NSN part coming from an OCONUS unit has a DIC of A01. Similarly, the DIC for all requisitions of NSN parts by CONUS units is A0A.
Different types of documents get different DICs. There are literally hundreds of DICs, depending on the purpose of the document. The information contained within the document itself, not the DIC, makes each document unique. A listing of what kind of information is found in each type of document, by DIC, is provided in Appendix 3 of DOD 4000.25–1–M, Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures. For the purposes of accurately requisitioning materials, maintenance leaders should be familiar with the information required by DICs beginning with "A0," which are used in MILSTRIP to place most Army requisitions.
Essential Elements of the MILSTRIP Document
For requisitions beginning with "A0" to be complete, 17 different unique codes must be included in the MILSTRIP document. However, the MILSTRIP user at an Army maintenance activity does not need to fill out every code to make a requisition. Six minimum-essential elements of data are required to requisition supplies via MILSTRIP:
- The NSN or a combination of the commercial and Government entity code and part number (if the requisitoner wants to order a non-NSN item through an approved vendor).
- The unit of issue.
- The quantity.
- The document number.
- The priority.
- The end item code.
A detailed description of these codes can be found in the Logisticians Smart Book available from the Installation Materiel Management Center on the World Wide Web.
With the aforementioned information provided by the requisitioning maintenance activity, the supporting supply activity will conduct accuracy edits to ensure the documents are properly formatted and prepared. If some of the minimum-essential elements of data are incorrect or missing, the supply support activity may reject the requisition or give the requisition a lower priority, causing a delay in getting the required repair part to the requesting maintenance activity.
A maintenance leader using MILSTRIP should be familiar with four other key codes, including—
- The demand code, which tells the Army supply system if the unit has a broken recoverable item to exchange for a new recoverable item.
- The signal code, which tells the Army which DOD activity address code (DODAAC) to charge for the requisition and where to send the item.
- The supplementary address, which is used when a part is charged to one DODAAC and shipped to another.
- The advice code, which tells the item manager specific information about the required part. For example, if the maintenance activity needs a 100-foot-long piece of 5/8-inch hose, the advice code of "2N" will tell the item manager that 100 continuous feet are needed. Otherwise, the requisitioning unit runs the risk of getting multiple segments of 5/8-inch hose adding up to 100 feet.
A greater understanding of MILSTRIP in the Army maintenance community will reduce vehicle downtime by reducing parts requisition errors at the user level. MILSTRIP is an efficient system for ordering repair parts, but only if MILSTRIP's codes are understood and used correctly to get the right repair part to the right location. Incorrectly ordered parts can be a major headache for maintenance leaders at all levels and impede the rapid regeneration of combat power and increase the total logistics response time–maintenance.