Army officials are depending on the Defense Logistics Agency’s disposal and distribution experts to help remove more than 1.2 million pieces of excess equipment from unit inventories in the next two to three years.
The effort, known as “All Army Divestiture,” is expected to free soldiers from costly, time-consuming maintenance on unneeded items as the service reduces its force structure.
“All this extra equipment encumbers the service in terms of people, manpower hours, resources and money for parts. As we help take unneeded equipment off the Army’s property books, soldiers can focus on the mission-essential equipment that’s staying in the force structure. It’s all about readiness,” said Army Col. Mike Arnold, DLA’s Army national account manager.
DLA will assist with divestiture efforts at 13 U.S. installations. Initial planning for each location will be based on the Army’s Master Divestiture List and equipment calculations in the Army’s Decision Support Tool, which weighs the items on units’ property books with what units are authorized. That data will be used to create a plan agreed to by a joint working group comprising installation and unit leaders, as well as representatives from the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, U.S. Army Forces Command and Army Materiel Command.
“We’re all going to sit down together and look at what’s excess, then do a bottom-up review of it. We’ll agree, on an installation and unit basis, to what’s going to be turned in or destroyed, what space it’s going to be done in and the process for how it’s going to be done,” Arnold said.
DLA gives units two options for divesting surplus equipment. They can turn it into DLA Disposition Services, which will make it available to other federal agencies as required by law. If no federal agency wants the materiel, DLA Disposition Services will demilitarize it, then auction it off to the public — or break it down into scrap material that can be sold.
The service may also transfer excess equipment to DLA Distribution for repair and storage. In the past, units spent “an inordinate amount of money” shipping equipment to Red River Army Depot in Texas or Sierra Army Depot in California only to have it shipped elsewhere, Arnold said.
“The second-destination costs associated with doing that was a huge expense for the Army that can now be mitigated through DLA’s partnership with the Army. DLA has agreed to send in a team from DLA Distribution to accept items the Army wants to keep on its property books at numerous CONUS-based Army installations where there is sufficient equipment to warrant our forward presence. From there, we’ll ship it off to the appropriate depot for them,” he continued.
DLA Disposition Services will also send teams to installations if necessary, but most stateside installations already have personnel and facilities for property turn-ins and disposal.
The agency has already supported divestiture efforts for 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood Texas, and 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas. Initial planning for other units and installations is scheduled to take place through December, and multiple visits will be made to some installations to accommodate units’ deployment and training schedules. Upcoming visits include Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Irwin, California, in July.
Equipment being turned in will range from common items like tools, tents and generators to entire fleets. All light tactical vehicles that aren’t fully armored are being turned in, as well as some versions of the mine-resistant, armored-protective vehicle, Arnold said.
“Due to the rapid nature of how we procured MRAPs to keep soldiers safe in combat, we ended up with several different versions from numerous manufacturers. By streamlining the fleet to particular models, the parts become standard and how the Army fixes them becomes routine,” he added.
Helping the service “clean the attic” gives DLA a unique opportunity to mentor future logisticians and improve soldiers’ understanding of command supply discipline and maintenance.
“Our disposition and distribution folks on the ground are training, mentoring and guiding troops through the process,” Arnold said. “Rather than tell a sergeant he didn’t fill the form out right, our guys are walking them through it so the property can be turned in.”
The process is just as much about changing a culture as the physical act of taking equipment off soldiers’ hands, he added. Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan became accustomed to having their equipment handed to them upon arrival in theater. That resulted in a “rental-car mentality” in which soldiers lost the art of logistics, Arnold said. Many are unfamiliar with forms required for property turn-ins and which items must be demilitarized. To help them, DLA created a “smart book” and a series of YouTube videos that outline proper forms and steps of preparing equipment for divestiture.
“There’s a whole generation of officers and noncommissioned officers that don’t know the inherent responsibility in maintaining and keeping accountability of all these fleets of equipment,” Arnold added. “One of our goals is to get that mindset back.”