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Field Maintenance Shortfalls
in Brigade Support Battalions

During peacetime, FSBs and BSBs do not have enough maintenance personnel to meet maintenance requirements. The author suggests augmenting the battalions with civilian mechanics to alleviate this shortfall.

In garrison, units are required to maintain an equipment operational readiness (OR) rate of 90 percent. This is nearly impossible because not enough mechanics are available in garrison to perform the required maintenance and needed repairs of their vehicles. This personnel shortage exists because authorizations are based on wartime requirements. In wartime, Soldiers work longer days than in peacetime, 7 days a week, and they do not have the personal time off for weekends, Federal holidays, and training holidays or the time off for physical training and mandatory training that Soldiers in peacetime garrisons have.

A study of military occupational specialty (MOS) 63B (light-wheel vehicle mechanic) workloads in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, confirmed the shortage of mechanics in peacetime. This was true not only of legacy forward support battalions (FSBs) but also of transformed brigade support battalions (BSBs). Lack of sufficient personnel to meet peacetime maintenance requirements is a significant issue that the Army needs to address as it transforms.

Maintenance Transformation

In January 2004, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter J. Schoomaker, directed the Army to transform its 10 divisions into more than 40 modular, stand-alone units called units of action (UAs) [now referred to as brigade combat teams (BCTs)]. The plan called for several different types of UAs, including infantry, aviation, fires (artillery), and sustainment. This concept required that each UA have the ability to operate independently and self-sustain. Self-sustainment would be provided by an organic, multifunctional combat service support unit—the BSB. The BSB would provide the following core services: water production and storage; requisition, distribution, management, and storage of all classes of supply; mortuary affairs; transportation; combat health support; and most direct support (DS) and below maintenance.

Maintenance transformation changed the legacy four-level system (unit maintenance, DS, general support, and depot maintenance) to a two-level system (field maintenance and sustainment maintenance). The legacy unit maintenance and DS maintenance functions were combined and now are conducted at the unit level. Thus, the term “unit maintenance,” which is used to describe the first level of the legacy system, is also used interchangeably with the new term, “field maintenance,” when comparing FSB and BSB structures. To accommodate the new two-level maintenance system, the Army Materiel Command is updating the maintenance allocation charts found in the technical manuals of all wheeled systems. In the meantime, one can assume that all tasks previously considered DS are now performed at the field maintenance, or unit, level.

Maintenance Personnel Shortfall

The 101st Airborne Division study analyzed MOS 63B workloads for 10 critical vehicles. It found that annual 63B workload requirements were resourced during peacetime at less than 66 percent for legacy FSBs and 73 percent for transformed BSBs. This means that the FSBs and BSBs do not have enough mechanics to maintain organizational equipment at the required 90 percent OR rate. (Note that the study included only 10 vehicle types and did not include all vehicles that 63B mechanics are required to maintain, so the actual percentages of personnel available to complete required maintenance on all vehicles will be lower.)

Army Regulation (AR) 570–4, Manpower Management, indicates that each maintenance Soldier in garrison is available 116 hours a month. However, authorization documents, which are driven by minimum mission-essential wartime requirements, indicate that each Soldier would have to be available 269 hours per month to meet unit maintenance requirements. Thus, a maintenance Soldier in garrison is available less than half of the time needed to meet the required OR rate.

Force Development Process

The Manpower Requirements Criteria (MARC) is a collection of designators used by requirements document developers to determine the number of personnel, by MOS, needed to complete certain duties in a specific unit. Maintenance personnel requirements based on the MARC usually translate directly into the requirements documents without decrement. MARCs are based on the following crucial parameters—

• What is the unit’s mission?
• In what battlespace is the unit located?
• Does the unit move?

The MARC used for a BSB is 31A: 3 represents a combat service support unit, 1 means that it is in the maneuver brigade’s battlespace, and A means that it moves frequently.

A U.S. Army Europe availability study conducted in 1992 produced an annual MOS availability factor (AMAF) of 3,230 hours for an MOS 63B Soldier belonging to a unit with a MARC of 31A. This figure computes to an availability of 62.12 hours per week per Soldier. The same AMAF is designated for a BSB in AR 71–32, Force Development and Documentation-Consolidated Policies, which defines minimum
mission-essential wartime requirements.

AR 570–4 attempts to reconcile some of the differences among minimum mission-essential wartime requirements and the realities of day-to-day availability of maintenance personnel in garrison. These differences are of special concern to maintainers. For instance, the mission availability factor of 116 hours a month noted in this AR equates to about 29 hours per week, or 1,392 hours per year, compared to the AMAF of 62.12 hours per week, or 3,230 per year. The chart on page 5 illustrates FSB and BSB manpower versus workload requirements in garrison.

Another important aspect of the force development process is the Army MARC Maintenance Database (AMMDB) value for each item of equipment, by line item number (LIN), for which the unit maintenance and DS requirements are identified. Although unit maintenance and DS requirements are listed, only unit maintenance requirements were included in the final computation of the 101st Airborne Division study because legacy FSBs are still operating under the four-level maintenance management model. Furthermore, the AMMDB no longer includes separate workload data for MOSs 63B, 63S, and 63W because the three MOSs have been consolidated and 63S and 63W no longer exist. Therefore, it is impossible to determine maintenance workloads that existed for these MOSs before the maintenance transformation began.

AMMDB Values Analysis Summary

The tables above show one thing clearly: FSBs and BSBs do not have enough 63Bs to maintain ground wheeled systems properly in garrison. Reducing the total annual maintenance man-hour requirement of 32,551.2 by 10 percent to account for the 90 percent OR rate required by AR 220–1, Unit Status Reporting, leaves FSBs with an annual requirement of 29,296.08 hours but a capability of only 19,488 hours, which yields an annual shortfall of 9,808.08 hours. The FSB AMMDB Values Table includes only a sample of the wheeled systems in the FSB, and the manpower still is woefully short. Note that only organizational workload requirements are included in this example.

The results of the computations on the BSB–FSB AMMDB Values Table are similar to those on the Legacy FSB Values Table. After reducing the total annual requirement by 10 percent to account for the 90 percent OR rate, the BSB had an annual shortfall of 22,004 hours. The main difference in the two tables is that the BSB–FSB AMMDB Values table includes both unit maintenance and DS workloads because of the transition from a four-level maintenance model to two-level maintenance.

Shortfall Solution

All BSB leaders throughout the Army need to review their modification tables of organization and equipment (TOEs) and compare the AMMDB values with their authorized 63B strengths. Then those leaders must request augmentation tables of distribution and allowances to bridge the maintenance manpower shortfalls in garrison. An augmentation TDA puts civilian mechanics in the motor pool to help meet the maintenance requirements. For example, assuming 50 productive weeks per year and 40 hours of productive labor per week, each BSB in the 101st Airborne Division needs 11 full-time civilian equivalents.

With current allocations, BSBs will not be able to meet their maintenance requirements in garrison. The Army must correct this deficiency in order to maintain a current and ready force. Using civilian mechanics to augment the military is one viable solution to this problem.

Captain James B. Swift is an action officer in the Collective Training Directorate of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has a B.S. degree in biology from Truman State University in Missouri, an M.S. degree in healthcare administration from Central Michigan University, and an M.S. degree in logistics from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a graduate of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Logistics Management College’s Support Operations Course, Multinational Logistics Course, Joint Course on Logistics, and Logistics Executive Development Course.

The author wishes to thank Lieutenant Colonel Duane Gamble, Major Kirk Whitson, and Major Spencer Smith for their assistance in conducting the study on which this article is based.