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Gaining Visibility of Excess Commercial Equipment

 

The Army Installation Management Agency (IMA) was established on 1 October 2002 to provide equitable, effective, and efficient management of Army installations worldwide in support of mission readiness and execution. IMA operates through seven regional offices. Four are in the continental United States (CONUS)—the Northeast Region Office at Fort Monroe, Virginia; the Southeast Region Office at Fort McPherson, Georgia; the Northwest Region Office at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois; and the Southwest Region Office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The Pacific Region Office is located at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, the Europe Region Office at Heidelberg, Germany, and the Korean Region Office at Yongsan, South Korea.
When the staff of the Northwest Region (NWR) analyzed garrison operations, we found that we had no way of knowing when commercial, nonstandard major items of equipment (class VII) at region installations became excess. As a result, our ability to redistribute excess equipment within our region was limited. As most supply managers know, excess items are a cost-effective source of supply that saves already limited budget dollars.

Accounting for Noncentrally Managed Items

The property books of IMA garrisons in CONUS predominately contain noncentrally managed commercial equipment. Managers of centrally managed items concentrate on controlling the authorization and accountability of items that support the warfighter, which limits the number of centrally managed items available to nondeployable table of distribution and allowances (TDA) activities, such as garrisons. IMA garrisons have filled this void through commercial procurement.

Only a small percentage of the commercial equipment that is used widely by nondeployable TDA activities is centrally managed. In fact, an analysis of data on all NWR garrison property book items showed that 87 percent were nonstandard and therefore were not centrally managed.

A procured commercial item is exempt from type classification and assignment of a line item number, even when it is a substitute for a centrally managed item valued at less than $100,000. Commercial equipment valued at more than $100,000 must go through a type classification or exemption review before it is procured.

The IMA garrison property book officer (PBO) uses the automated Defense Property Accountability System (DPAS) to maintain formal accountability records. DPAS provides information on all centrally managed reportable items to the Logistics Integrated Database (LIDB), which is the Army’s asset visibility tool. However, most nonstandard commercial items are not reported to the LIDB; therefore, asset visibility of commercial items is limited.

Typically, an excess commercial item is turned in to the servicing supply support activity (SSA). Because the item is not centrally managed, the SSA sends the item to the nearest Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), regardless of its condition code. Federal agencies and other qualified buyers may purchase the item from DRMO.

Finding a Fix

The NWR Office, as a steward of Army property, decided to look for a way to broaden the visibility of these nonstandard commercial items so they would be available for extended use by the services before they were reported as excess to the DRMO.

First, we identified criteria for reporting excess items that would attract customers and increase the use of this source of supply. The criteria would have to be flexible, and the items would have to offer substantial value and represent cost savings for our customers.

To limit the reporting of less-than-desirable items, we established criteria for reporting usable commercial items with an original acquisition value over $5,000 that were in condition codes A (serviceable-usable), B (serviceable with qualifications), and F (economically reparable). Dollar values for the items were set at a level that would ensure the gaining garrison a positive return on its investment, considering the costs of packaging and transportation. We established a screening period of 21 days from the reporting date, during which the items would be available for redistribution before turn-in to the SSA. To categorize commercial equipment properly, we disallowed reporting of all standard Army items that are listed in chapter 2 of Supply Bulletin 700–20, Army Adopted/Other Items Selected for Authorization/List of Reportable Items. Those items have a separate basis of issue and have been separately type-classified.

Next, we identified a program development goal—maximum property reutilization—and objectives to reach it. The first objective was to automate the reporting, request, and redistribution processes. The second objective was to maximize the use of existing automation, and the third was to minimize the impact of the program on the garrison workload.

We reviewed several scenarios to determine the merit and feasibility of our plan. We also reviewed a number of automation asset management tools and selected two: DPAS and the Army Electronic Product Support (AEPS) system and Web site. TDF Corporation, the AEPS software developer, provided a cost-effective scenario for developing the necessary functional processes.

 

Developing the Process

Ensuring data availability and developing the DPAS process were critical to program success. Our first challenge was to find an easy way for our PBOs to report excess items before they are processed for turn-in. We discovered that DPAS Version 16.3, released in July 2003, allows users to initiate information technology (IT) equipment turn-in transactions directly to the serving DRMO and notify the DRMO of upcoming turn-in actions using an interface with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Automated Information System (DAISY).

However, the Army does not allow the turn-in of non-IT assets directly from a property book to the DRMO. To be able to take full advantage of the available DPAS processes, we obtained approval from the Department of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, to use the DPAS interface and allow the direct turn-in of our commercial excess equipment. The 25 February 2004 update to AR 710–2, Supply Policy Below the National Level, authorizes IMA garrisons to submit turn-in transactions to transfer commercial nonstandard items directly from their property books to their DRMOs.

We engaged the installation command stakeholders in our region—the Joint Munitions Command (JMC) and the Chemical Materials Agency (CMA)—in the development of the AEPS excess program processes. After reviewing the program and the mutual benefits to be gained, both JMC and CMA elected to bring their Government-owned activities on line in the excess program, even those outside of the NWR. Thus, the program became a multi-command system.

Our final process in the development cycle was a user system acceptance test of the AEPS. Using standard methodology, we developed a test plan and procedures to trace the reporting, redistribution, and disposition processes. Because AEPS is Web-based, we determined that it was not necessary to gather all participants in one conventional test environment. Instead, we conducted a virtual test, with participants accessing the AEPS developmental server remotely as they would in the user environment. Six PBOs from three commands and four command personnel with authority to approve lateral transfer of personal property participated in the test. The test director orchestrated the actions of each test participant.

TDF Corporation made software programming fixes as the test progressed. A downside to remote testing was a lack of control over the test environment. Communications were sporadic or interrupted at times, and test participants were not always immediately available. However, we persevered and completed the system acceptance test successfully in 2 weeks.

Reporting Excess Items


Here’s how the new NWR reporting and redistribution process works. The reporting PBO enters information on excess items into the DAISY/DPAS prenotification excess database. Every Friday, the AEPS application pulls the data, compiles them by unit identification code (UIC) with associated points of contact (POCs), and emails the data to all program participants. If a program participant finds an item that meets his mission requirements, he accesses the AEPS excess program to submit a request for redistribution, or a “hold.” A hold action generates an email notification to the approving command POC requesting that he access the program to approve or disapprove the redistribution request.

When a decision is made, an e-mail is sent to the reporting and requesting PBOs to notify them of the disposition of the redistribution (hold) request. If the request is approved, the e-mail notification provides an electronic Department of the Army Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-In, with the UIC, item description, and electronic command approval signatures. If no claim for an item is received during the 21-day screening period, a disposition email is sent to the reporting PBO with instructions to process the item to the SSA for disposal.

AEPS also has a “want list” capability that allows unit POCs to submit, by Federal stock class and nomenclature, requests for AEPS to search the database. When a reported item’s Federal stock class or nomenclature matches that of a requested item, the requester is notified by e-mail of the item’s availability. AEPS has a metrics reporting function that commands can use to monitor the effectiveness and return on investment of the excess program. This feature is linked directly to the e-mail engine and reports generator, so data can be updated automatically.

Fielding

Because the AEPS system is Web-based, no additional software or hardware was required to field the excess program. We established an implementation schedule and determined associated actions. Fielding consisted of publishing command policy and procedures, identifying all program participants, establishing user restrictions on AEPS, providing a training compact disk (CD), and scheduling video teleconferences (VTCs) with installation PBOs and command POCs. We provided them with NWR program guidance on 3 October 2003. JMC and CMA subsequently endorsed this guidance, and the training CD was shipped to all program participants. By VTC, each command participated in reviewing program responsibilities and answering operational and system fielding questions.

The PBOs began submitting information on excess items to the DPAS prenotification excess database during the first week in November, and the first generation of excess listings and subsequent automatic emailing to all program participants occurred the following week.

To date, our established objectives have been met. We have gained visibility of excess items on the garrison property book, maximized use of current automation, and minimized the workload impact on garrison personnel. Since implementation of this program, we have redistributed excess items valued at more than $4 million. We expect this figure to rise to $10 million by the end of this fiscal year as the value of redistributed items continues to be high. This represents direct cost avoidance for program participants and extends the usefulness of items. To provide good stewardship of Army and IMA resources, we are planning to field our excess system to the remaining three IMA CONUS regions. Non-IMA installations and tenant activities will be able to participate in the programs at the discretion of their command and garrison hosts.

As the Army moves toward implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning under the Global Combat Support System, resources for current systems are limited, and we will be challenged to provide interim solutions to maintain the Army’s logistics edge. ALOG

Clinton W. Mecham is a logistics management specialist in the Installation Management Agency (IMA) Northwest Region at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. He is a member of the IMA Logistics System Architecture Working Group, which is chartered to analyze, review, and develop logistics systems capabilities at the installation level.