Eliminating the plague of excess at Fort Hood

By Army Capt. Michael S. Smith Army Sustainment

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This story originally appeared in the Army Sustainment section of Army.mil.

Fort Hood redefined the term "spring cleaning" during a two-week operation held in March 2018. In only eight working days, 477 fully loaded military vehicles from the 1st Cavalry Division and nearly every other unit across Fort Hood turned in approximately 1,141,000 pounds of non-property book excess materiel without a single piece of paperwork being submitted.

Excess materiel that had accumulated for years in motor pools, containers, and supply rooms was eliminated with very simple guidance: If it does not help you fight tonight, organize it by like item, put it on a truck, and drive it to the turn-in site.

The 62nd Quartermaster Company organized the Clean Sweep Surge Event, which included an interagency team of personnel from Fort Hood Recycle, the Fort Hood Landfill, and the Fort Hood Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services (DLA DS) site and 11 Sierra Army Depot employees on temporary duty from California.

The 62nd Quartermaster Company, with augmentation from the 289th Composite Supply Company, contributed to the event through a field training exercise designed to develop competencies in Defense Support to Civil Authorities operations. In such operations, huge volumes of supplies are received, stored, and issued without the use of Global Combat Support System-Army or any other Army logistics information systems.

The Clean Sweep Surge Event proved to be an overall success for the quartermaster Soldiers, their civilian partners, and all of the supported units. The event saved the government money, removed excess equipment from units, placed serviceable items back into the supply system, and generated revenue for the Fort Hood Recycle program.

The results of the Clean Sweep Surge Event were phenomenal. The Sierra Army Depot collected 395,000 pounds of serviceable repair parts, which were loaded into 35 20-foot equivalent unit containers. Fort Hood recycle gathered 380,000 pounds of scrap metal that generated $36,178 in revenue for the installation, and the Fort Hood Landfill received 144,000 pounds of refuse.

The turn-in process

The Sierra Army Depot was instrumental to the mission's success. The depot's personnel identified equipment and determined equipment serviceability. The team's mission was to collect serviceable items that could be placed back into the Army's inventory. This involved taking unused repair parts and supplies, inspecting them for serviceability, and retrograding them back to the depot for reissue.

After collecting serviceable items, the depot's experts quickly segregated the items that were mandated for reutilization or disposal by DLA DS from the items that were most suitable for recycling and the landfill.

Although the event was advertised to supported units as a "no paperwork" mission, DLA DS still required the traditional Defense Department (DD) Form 1348, Issue/Release Receipt Document, in order to comply with regulatory requirements. In traditional clean sweeps, individual units are frustrated by trying to learn the intricacies of a DD 1348.

The 62nd Quartermaster Company avoided this frustration by using DLA DS-mandated items as a proxy for natural disaster supplies. The company commander assigned a team to receive excess and fill in the accompanying DD 1348s. As a result, supported units faced little to no frustration, while automated logistical specialists benefited from hands-on military occupation skills training. The training was enhanced by close collaboration with DLA DS subject matter experts. At the end of the exercise, 28,460 pieces of 2,373 different items were received and transported to Fort Hood's DLA DS site.

Financial and military readiness benefits

Excess is a pervasive Army problem. Brig. Gen. Matt Van Wagenen said, "The amount of excess and unserviceable items clogging our motor pools, maintenance bays, and supply rooms has plagued us at Fort Hood for years, as I personally experienced during both my time as a brigade commander and now as the deputy commanding general for support [for the 1st Cavalry Division]."

What may be a plague at the local level might be a critical readiness driver for a unit in combat. For example, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment turned in truckloads of Abrams tank parts that were left over from their unit's transition to a Stryker regiment in 2011. Returning parts to national-level accountability also has financial benefits for taxpayers.

For example, 1/8th of the materiel collected by the Sierra Army Depot team included aviation parts from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade with a requisition value of approximately $10,060,000. The millions of dollars returned is just a small drop of the Army aviation budget because thousands of parts have been rendered as excess in the past few years due to the Army's Aviation Restructuring Initiative.

In addition, the Sierra Army Depot, Fort Hood Recycle, and the Fort Hood Landfill were able to remove the paperwork burden present during steady-state operations, which resulted in a cost savings of $878,000 in labor.

Even if units could afford to hire contractors to prepare paperwork, bottlenecks would remain at tactical supply support activities and logistics readiness centers that do not have enough personnel to retrograde years of accumulated excess.

I recommend deliberately treating property book and non-property book items as separate events because units require transfer of accountability for every property book item. In addition, to enhance simplicity, expediency, and unit engagement, future Clean Sweep Surge Event planners should consider excluding items that are considerably labor-intensive to process, such as hazardous materials, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear protective equipment, weapon parts, and automation equipment. I recommend that installations develop a deliberate schedule and plan solely for these types of turn-ins.

Based only on the value of aviation repair parts recovered by Sierra Army Depot, the 62nd Quartermaster Company's Clean Sweep Surge Event returned $11,000,000 to the Army operating budget.

Efforts like the Clean Sweep Surge Event are a win-win from the tactical level to the strategic level. Word of mouth has led to similar exercises at Fort Stewart and Fort Bragg. If this process were replicated in a planned and structured way with accountability measures to ensure execution Army-wide, the annual return on investment would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

Editor's Note: Turn-in controls and procedures may vary from service to service - but the basics remain the same. For details, DLA Disposition Services has people serving as disposal support representatives (DSRs) at field sites and has an online digital tool at www.dla.mil/ddsr/. DLA also operates a 24/7/365 customer interaction center (reached by email at dlacontactcenter@dla.mil or by commercial phone at (877) 352-2255, or by DSN phone CONUS/OCONUS at  (877) 352-2255).