WASHINGTON — The supply availability of repair parts has atrophied as the Army has been focused on fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 16 years, which required very specific equipment. So Army Materiel Command is working to build up its repair parts for equipment now needed to fight in a multitude of different domains and operations, the command’s chief Gen. Gus Perna told Defense News at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention.
Repair parts inventory atrophied because “we weren’t buying as much; we weren’t using the equipment. Why weren’t we using the equipment? Because the fight we were in in Iraq and Afghanistan did not require the equipment,” Perna said. “We flew helicopters a lot, and we used MRAPs a lot,” he said, referring to Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
While those two pieces of equipment were good, he said, the Army didn’t use its tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Stryker combat vehicles or transportation vehicles, “so our supply chain atrophied.”
The Army is now in the process of building up the supply chain because the service can’t get into theater and then have two out of four tanks break down and have them taken out of the fight because there aren’t the right repair parts, Perna explained.
“We have to be able to do a myriad of missions, whether that is counterinsurgency, or we have to do decisive action against a peer competitor,” he said. “We are working to maintain, to be able to do both.”
When it comes to decisive action operations, the Army is getting back in shape after being focused on counterinsurgency operations for well over a decade, and that means the supply chain has to get in shape along with the rest of the service.
The Army is working with the Defense Logistics Agency for help managing repair parts and supplying the Army with what it needs. Also, the service is working with industry, key to its success, as it provides equipment and owns the supply chain, Perna said.
“Now it’s about adding breadth and depth into it, and I owe them a vision of what the requirements are, and I owe them steady funding,” he said. “I need to have that steady funding.”
For nearly a decade, the Army has struggled to plan ahead as every year, the budget isn’t approved on time, continuing resolutions continue to plague portions of the fiscal year and the budget control act remains the elephant in the room.
“I need to be able to disburse funds in a long view versus a short view, and if I can do that, industry can support us in a great way,” Perna said.
The Army Aviation and Missile Command, or AMCOM, is also focused on redistributing the supply chain in a smart way while divesting excess equipment that costs the money to maintain but isn’t being used, Perna said.
The Army is in the process of realigning roughly 1.2 million pieces of equipment — roughly 500,000 pieces are not where they need to be, and 700,000 are being divested due to obsolescence.
“We have the right equipment for the current fight, and we want to manage that properly, and that has taken some work,” Perna said.
But using a new system called the Decision Support Tool that Army Sustainment Command runs out of Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Perna said, “for the first time in my career, we can really see ourselves, and so we know where every single piece of equipment in the Army is, whether you are in the active component, the Reserve component or the National Guard. It’s never been that way; it’s very powerful.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.