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TACOM Depots Seek Efficiencies Through Private Partners

Oct. 31, 2012 - 07:32AM   |  
By PAUL MCLEARY   |   Comments
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For the past two decades, several maintenance and storage depots working under the U.S. Army’s Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command’s Life Cycle Management Command (TACOM LCMC) have participated in a series of public-private partnerships with the defense industry. The goal was to drive down costs, streamline the logistics tail and share work on some of the service’s most valuable heavy and medium ground combat vehicle programs.

Anniston Army Depot, Ala., in particular has struck up 49 active partnerships with industry to strip down, overhaul and upgrade Strykers, M1A1 tanks and M113s for the National Guard, and in some cases for foreign military sales.

These public-private partnerships date to 1993, when TACOM and Anniston entered deals with General Dynamics and BAE Systems to strip down and upgrade their combat vehicles.

The impetus for taking this approach might sound familiar to contemporary ears.

“It goes back to a time where we were going through kind of what we are going through now with budget reductions, and we were looking for a way that both public and private organizations could survive in a reduced budget environment, and to utilize the capabilities and skills that each one provides,” said Phillip Dean, chief of logistics and business development at Anniston.

Anniston is working on a program with General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) to harvest as many parts from flat-bottomed Stryker infantry carriers as possible in order to reuse them on the newer double V-hull (DVH) Strykers, which provide better protection from roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

By reusing the parts, company officials claim to be able to reduce the cost of a new DVH Stryker from $2.4 million to $1.6 million, which could slash the cost for a proposed third Stryker brigade set from $617 million to about $370 million if the Army agrees to other cost-saving measures the company has identified.

David Rodgers, General Dynamics’ senior director of plant operations at Anniston, told Defense News during an August visit that the team “is finding new ways with each new vehicle to reduce the cost” by deciding which parts to harvest.

Anniston’s Dean said GD and depot workers “split the touched labor 50-50. We went though some growing pains at first because you have the General Dynamics employees and Anniston Army Depot employees working on the same production line, yet their employees belong to a union and ours belong to a different union. Then you had the supervision — we can’t supervise contract employees and they can’t supervise our employees — so we had to find ways that we could make this work, and we did.”

By working together, Dean said, “we’ve learned from each other how to incorporate best practices; we share those best practices.”

How the Process Works

The Strykers are shipped to Anniston, where GD and depot workers strip out the several hundred components that are compatible with the DVH version and repair and overhaul them. The parts are then turned over to General Dynamics workers, who assemble a DVH Stryker at Anniston using a hull shipped from the company’s facility in London, Ontario. The old flat-bottomed hulls are then shrink-wrapped and put in storage until the Army decides what to do with them.

“It’s about sharing knowledge so that both organizations are better informed for the overhaul process,” Dean said. “It provides the best value to our customer, and it keeps both entities viable.”

Every partnership is different, however. An earlier partnership program with GD at Anniston was set up to refurbish battle-damaged Strykers.

“We utilized GDLS as the technical source of information, and they were the supply chain manager for all of the parts,” Dean said. But Anniston workers provided all of the “touch labor” to do the repairs. “It was a different kind of mix.”

TACOM is running other partnerships with industry. In addition to partnering with BAE Systems at Anniston to overhaul M113 infantry carriers and M88 recovery vehicles for foreign customers, it is also working with the company on the M777 medium towed howitzer program and the M109A6 Paladin PIM howitzer.

In August, the command’s Red River Army Depot in Texas began work on a $306 million contract modification to upgrade 353 BAE Systems-made Bradley fighting vehicles. The production contract came in addition to $340 million the company had already received to upgrade the platform, bringing the full contract total to $646 million.

Red River will conduct the initial teardown of the vehicles as well as the reset work on some vehicle components before shipping the vehicles to BAE facilities at York and Fayette, Pa., and Aiken, S.C. Once there, the company will upgrade Bradley Operation Desert Storm M2A2, M3A2 and M7 Bradley Fire Support Team vehicles to Operation Desert Storm Situational Awareness configurations, which provides a digital backbone by installing some of the latest situational awareness, network connectivity and enhanced communications technologies.

The upgraded Bradleys will eventually be assigned to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kansas, South Carolina and Ohio National Guard units. Final delivery is expected in April 2014.

In the end, the amount of knowledge shared by both sides of the public-private partnership program ensures that both industry and the government are better informed of how to go about the overhaul and repair process, while also “providing the best value to our customer. Really, it keeps both entities viable,” Dean said.

“We understand that both organizations have to exist to meet the requirements of the [Army] in the future, so what we’ve got to do, especially in the budget environment that we’re going into now, is instead of competing for the same work, we share it.”

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