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Sustainment Moves to the Next Level: Rethinking Our Life-Cycle Focus

While these are demanding times for our Army, with more than 240,000 Soldiers executing missions in nearly 80 countries around the world, our path to restoring the Army’s balance is clear. By embracing an enterprise approach and creating four core enterprises—readiness, human capital, services and infrastructure, and materiel—our Army will more closely align its generating forces with its operational forces and will yield a more predictable and sustainable generation of forces, lighten the load for our Soldiers and their families, and better align resources to the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) timelines as units prepare for worldwide missions.

Creating the Materiel Enterprise

Each of the four enterprises plays a key role in making this transformation a reality, with each one following a distinct path. For those of us in the critical business of developing, acquiring, and sustaining materiel, our role is to expand collaboration and synchronization among our research and development, acquisition, and logistics communities to better manage and sufficiently resource Army equipment throughout its entire life cycle. Together, the Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology formed the Army’s Materiel Enterprise. Our guiding principles include operating from a common operating picture, ensuring timely and accurate access to information, enabling collaborative decisionmaking, developing a commitment to continuous improvement, and maintaining a process focus. A natural outcome of improved collaboration and communication has been a renewed focus on the life-cycle management model, improving execution of the entire process from cradle to grave.

Renewed Focus on the Entire Life Cycle

The Army’s ability to quickly develop and provide new, state-of-the-art materiel solutions is unsurpassed in meeting Soldiers’ requirements and ensuring their safety. Thanks to our innovative and ongoing rapid acquisition and equipping initiatives, we are getting equipment into the hands of Soldiers faster than ever. These systems, which grew out of necessity during the early years of the Global War on Terrorism, provide high-quality equipment quickly; but when executed within insulated stovepipes, they are often very inefficient. By better integrating our research and development, acquisition, and logistics communities, we will more effectively and efficiently meet immediate needs in the field now and in the future, with efficient distribution and sustainment planned and resourced.

Historically, we have focused much of our time, talent, and resources on the “first half” of the life cycle—the research, development, testing, acquiring, equipping, and supplying of essential equipment. While incredibly important, that typically only represents 30 percent of a program’s budget. We must now renew our focus on the “second half” of the life cycle—the maintenance, distribution, sustainment, and disposal of equipment. Applying the same rigor and attention to the back end of the life-cycle process will ensure that our systems are more sustainable, cost effective, and efficient throughout their entire life cycles. This ultimately will ensure the best support to the warfighter.

Asset Visibility Is Still Key

We are facing a dynamic period of time as we reshape one war, increase resourcing to a second war, and strive to reset the remaining forces that are cycling through ARFORGEN in preparation for deployment. At the heart of our collaboration within the acquisition and logistics communities is the need to better see and understand what we have, who has it, where it is needed, and what condition it is in. Asset visibility and accountability are enormously critical and have always been daunting challenges for our Army. We still remember the thousands of containers during Operation Desert Storm that lacked appropriate property accountability or were returned unopened because we didn’t know what they contained. Fast forward to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it appeared to be déjà vu all over again.

We knew then, as we do today, that we must invest in enabling technologies that provide a 360-degree readiness perspective on everything we do. Our interactive information systems must provide a common operating picture that provides real-time visibility of all assets with dynamic status updates—not just for individual units but across our force. And those data must feed a more collaborative, rapid decisionmaking process for appropriate disposition of our equipment. Getting the right equipment to the right place quickly will pay huge dividends in the effort to rebalance our Army and can only be accomplished with a much greater understanding of our current materiel status, facilitating movement of equipment through reset processes worldwide.

Resetting the Force

The Army has aggressively reset and repaired more than 500,000 pieces of equipment in our industrial base over the last 6 years, a workload three times greater than during the Vietnam War. In 2009 alone, we will reset 180,000 pieces of equipment, including more than 400 aircraft, 2,700 tracked vehicles, and 150,000 weapons. It’s clear we must invest wisely in our depots, arsenals, ammunition plants, and forward repair facilities to ensure that we can continue to meet future challenges, adequately sustain and improve our equipment, and rebalance our Army. Through the Materiel Enterprise, we are developing the strategic investment plans needed to optimize the resources in our facilities, equipment, and workforce so we always meet the Army’s needs. This includes having adequate plans in place to maintain our current workload, rapidly and efficiently ramp up in times of war, and scale down when the demand slows.

Disposing of Equipment

Critical to the modernization and overall resourcing of our Army is making timely, informed decisions on end-of-life-cycle disposition. We must continue to modernize our force—even in periods of constrained budgets—by both sustaining the current fight and preparing for future conflicts across the spectrum of war. Whether it is leveraging foreign military sales, placing equipment in long-term storage, or modernizing enabling systems on the existing platform, we must make those decisions within a more transparent process informed by the enterprise perspective. By better integrating our disparate communities so we understand what is possible from a scientific and engineering perspective, the conditions set by programmatic processes, and the capabilities of our sustainment systems, we will be more prepared than we have ever been to make those decisions and ultimately focus limited resources where they provide the greatest effects for our warfighting forces.

As our collaborative materiel management systems evolve, we will continue to aggressively rebalance the materiel resourcing of our Army, renewing our focus on sustaining equipment through every phase of the life-cycle process. We will rely on strong relationships, greater transparency, and a secure stream of shared, readily accessible, and accountable information through the Materiel Enterprise. We will optimize our Nation’s industrial base to best meet the needs of our Soldiers. Our combined logistics and acquisition systems will be truly collaborative and structured to deliver the most innovative, effective, efficient, and sustainable equipment for our warfighters. And with the Materiel Enterprise, we have the blueprint in hand to get us there.

General Ann E. Dunwoody is the Commanding General of the Army Materiel Command.

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