The author offers 10 suggestions for “jump
starting” Army maintenance policy.
Army planners agree that a transformed materiel maintenance
system must substantially improve equipment reliability, reduce
the size of logistics support elements, and enhance maintenance
responsiveness. However, despite various programs and initiatives
committed specifically to developing new maintenance concepts,
processes, and technologies, the best way to proceed with achieving
these goals has not been defined clearly. Attempts to make
equipment sustainment equal
in importance to other war-fighting considerations have not
yet produced meaningful results. In fact, Army maintenance
procedures have changed very little over the past decade or
so, and our Soldiers are still encumbered with overly bureaucratic
maintenance policies, archaic logistics information systems,
and equipment that may have been designed and engineered more
for “manufacturability” than maintainability. Simply
stated, the Army cannot expect to transform itself successfully
without a genuine, conspicuous, and quantifiable commitment
to reinvent maintenance.
This article presents 10 imperatives, or focus areas, for addressing maintenance
policy shortfalls in a way that will launch authentic maintenance transformation.
I developed this list after extensive analysis of Current Force and Future Force
maintenance procedures. Several of the initiatives on the list have been approved
already and are underway in the Army. Regrettably, not all of them are showing
signs of real progress. I hope these suggestions will serve to jump-start the
maintenance transformation process and provide a fundamental strategy for rethinking
and reengineering Army maintenance.
consults a technical manual before conducting maintenance
on his vehicle at Camp Blue Diamond in Iraq.
1. Accelerate introduction of embedded
diagnostics and prognostics. Embedded diagnostic and embedded prognostic (ED/EP) systems
truly are the technological “heart” of
a transformed maintenance system. Much more than an on-board troubleshooting
tool, the ED/EP system also must be the primary conduit for many other sustainment
functions, such as joint logistics information control, digital preventive maintenance
checks and services, automated
status reporting, platform-based parts requisitioning, remote diagnostics, telemaintenance,
vehicle configuration management, component life-history recording, and embedded
just-in-time maintenance training. Several ex- periments have successfully demonstrated
the value of this multifunctional approach to ED/EP, including the Army G–4’s
visionary Common Logistics Operating Environment (CLOE) initiative, which is
now the standard ED/EP operational architecture for connecting logisticians.
[CLOE guides the Army’s vision for developing a technology-enabled force
equipped with self-diagnosing platforms that interact with a networked sustainment
Maintenance transformation does not depend solely on innovative technology. Instead,
real transformation results from profound cultural change that is enabled by
technology. Therefore, the greatest return on investment from accelerated fielding
of multifunctional ED/EP systems (for both Current Force and Future Force platforms)
will be the creation of an enormous window of opportunity for modernizing logistics
policies and procedures.
2. Update maintenance processes using CBM+ as the central theme. Because assured
mobility is so crucial to the operational effectiveness of our Future Force,
we must give leaders the option of replacing components before the actual point
of failure. The Army must develop a transformed logistics system that blends
conventional maintenance techniques with Department of Defense Condition-Based
Maintenance Plus (CBM+) guidelines. Moving from a fault-based maintenance philosophy
to one that is anticipatory, proactive, and reliability centered will decrease
the battlefield maintenance workload, boost reliability during combat pulses,
and reduce costs by avoiding catastrophic failures.
3. Adopt a NASA mentality for future ground platforms. Future ground platforms
must be designed and engineered for improved maintainability, rapid repair,
nominal tool requirements, redundancy, system bypass capability, and maximum
use of plug-and-play
modular components. This methodology, often called “pit stop engineering,” also
can be compared to the design philosophies of the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) manned space program. NASA designs spacecraft using
reliability standards and incorporating multiple, redundant systems for continued
operation, even during failures. If the Army wants to conduct sustained battlefield
operations with minimal logistics support, it must invest in combat platforms
that include at least some measure of engineering borrowed from the space program.
4. Increase maintenance performed by equipment operators
and crews. The noncontiguous
battlefield anticipated for future conflicts restricts the ability of logisticians
to project maintenance support. With combat repair teams operating independently
over extended distances, vehicle crews experiencing maintenance problems cannot
always expect a timely response from field maintenance personnel. In some cases,
a crew’s survival may depend on its ability to diagnose faults and make
With this in mind, the Army’s combat maintainer model was introduced
as a central feature of the Army Training and Doctrine Command-approved Stryker
advanced maintenance concept. Patterned after the combat lifesaver model of
medical support, the combat maintainer program expands maintenance effectiveness
and combat self-sufficiency by training vehicle crewmembers to perform selected
mission-critical equipment repair tasks, basic troubleshooting, self- or like-vehicle
recovery, and limited battlefield damage assessment and repair procedures.
5. Establish sense-and-respond processes for repair
parts supply. The Office
of Force Transformation’s sense-and-respond logistics project holds great
potential as a principal enabler for rapid distribution of mission-critical
repair parts. The two primary repair parts management challenges in today’s
multidimensional combat environment are inaccurate anticipation of demands
and sluggish battlefield distribution. Multifunctional ED/EP systems
and sense-and-respond logistics can help mitigate these challenges through
dynamic networking of dispersed logistics resources. Fundamentally, sense-and-respond
logistics considers all repair parts, regardless of where they are stored or
to which unit they belong, as a common pool that can be requested by any network
user and delivered by any available asset. Under this concept, support roles
are flexible and continuously adaptive, and logistics customers may be tasked
periodically to function as logistics providers. Ultimately, sense-and-respond
logistics processes will enhance the availability of repair parts across the
battlespace without requiring a corresponding increase in logistics support
6. Eliminate the notion of “levels of maintenance.” In the purest
terms, maintenance can be viewed strictly as another sustainment function that
the Army must perform, regardless of “who, what, when, why, where, or how.” All
maintenance tasks could be consolidated into a single category, and it would
no longer be necessary to describe the Army maintenance system using obsolete
terms from the linear battlefield, such as “levels.” While the Army’s
transition from four to two levels of maintenance has produced some benefits,
the traditional practice of pigeonholing tasks into rigid columns on a maintenance
allocation chart eventually can be replaced with a unified and highly adaptable
maintenance philosophy that eliminates levels altogether.
7. Allocate maintenance tasks using decision logic. Once
echeloning of the Army’s
maintenance system is abolished, responsibility for performing maintenance tasks
can be determined by using a decision chart,
with training and resources as the main considerations for task accomplishment.
All Soldiers can be trained to apply task decision logic and quickly evaluate
maintenance factors on the decision chart before proceeding with equipment repairs.
Thus, if all of the decision chart requirements are met, the task is performed;
if any of the requirements are not fulfilled, the task must be deferred or reassigned
to another maintenance element.
of a maintenance task decision chart.
8. Develop a single, all-encompassing interactive electronic
for each future platform. Eventually, on-board, interactive electronic technical
manuals can be consolidated into a single reference tool (one manual for each
platform or equipment item), and separate manuals for different levels of maintenance
will be unnecessary. Future interactive electronic technical manuals also must
include a master task list, similar to that found in commercial automotive service
manuals, with detailed information that corresponds to the seven task-evaluation
factors on the maintenance task decision chart. (See the example above.)
9. Purge the term “mechanic” from the Army’s vocabulary. Perhaps
the introductory paragraph from the Web page of the automotive technology program
at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Washington, best describes
the changing nature of automotive service and repair: “A mechanic goes
after your car with a hammer. An automotive technician talks to your car with
a computer.” Since digitally controlled systems are so commonplace in modern
automotive designs, the knowledge, skills, and abilities of today’s automotive
service technician are distinctly different from those of yesterday’s “grease
monkey.” Similarly, modern Army equipment has increased in sophistication
to the point that the term “mechanic” does not accurately reflect
the depth of technical expertise required to maintain our newest ground platforms.
Because our professional maintenance Soldiers’ roles on the future battlefield
will be even more critical than they are now, calling them “technicians” is
an important first step in changing the way we recruit, train, deploy, and
10. Revamp and certify maintenance training programs. When maintenance levels
are eliminated, task allocation is linked to resources, and mechanics are replaced
with technicians, automotive maintenance training can be transformed into three
exportable modules: an entry course for equipment operators and crews, a basic
course for new Ordnance Corps mechanical maintenance enlistees, and an advanced
course for senior technicians. Eventually, all Soldiers will take the entry course,
regardless of their primary military occupational specialties, to support distributive
maintenance concepts by increasing operator and crew maintenance responsibilities.
Army maintenance training programs should be comparable to the best automotive
technology programs in community colleges and trade schools across the country.
The maintenance curriculum must be evaluated and certified by the National Automotive
Technicians Education Foundation, the National Institute for Automotive Service
Excellence, and local, state, or national college accreditation agencies.
Maintenance policies and procedures must change, and they must change now.
Our logistics processes are fundamentally the same as they were decades ago.
are not keeping pace with the many changes occurring throughout our expeditionary
Army. If any of the 10 recommendations presented in this article are adopted
as a course of action, appropriately resourced, and aggressively cultivated
with a true sense of urgency, significant improvements to equipment mission
emerging force designs, and battlefield maintenance support are sure to result.
Keith B. Wenstrand is employed by Camber Corporation at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
where he works as a senior analyst in the Army Armor Center Directorate of
Training, Doctrine, and Combat Developments. He has an associate’s degree in automotive
technology from South Puget Sound Community College in Washington and a bachelor’s
degree in occupational training and development from the University of Louisville.
He retired from the Army as a chief warrant officer (W–4).