Smart buyers, common sense key to equipment readiness says leader of Army’s combat ground systems

By Beth Reece

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The Army’s program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems advised fellow logisticians and industrial representatives to not become victims of the acquisition process Sept. 30 during the DLA Land and Maritime Supplier Conference and Expo at Columbus, Ohio.

“Everybody wants to hear that the acquisition system is so corrupt that it must be reformed. What I’ve told my team, what I’m going to tell you, is we will not be victims of the acquisition process,” said Army Brig. Gen. David Bassett.

“We’re going to bend it to our will. We’re going to do smart acquisition and contracting. We’re going to put the right incentives in place. We’re going to deliver on budget, on schedule, the capabilities that give our soldiers the asymmetric advantage.” 

Bassett oversees the Army’s $80 billion combat vehicle fleet, which includes Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Strykers. Despite leaner budgets, those vehicles continue to be modernized with the use of tenets outlined in Better Buying Power 3.0, such as incentivizing productivity. The key, he said, is setting priorities on what’s important and then incentivizing those areas.

“If you’ve only incentivized schedule or cost, you might get a system that doesn’t perform as you expected. If you incentivize reliability, you might get a more reliable system, but it might cost more,” he continued. “Smart acquisition is about figuring out what’s important to you and prioritizing.”

Media reports may indicate that military equipment is in need of modernization and better upkeep, but Bassett gave examples of how the Army’s ground combat systems continue to improve. A new version of the Abrams tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle are in testing. The first Stryker vehicle in support of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is on schedule for delivery by Christmas, and the first prototype of the armored multipurpose vehicle is scheduled to be released just 18 months after the program started.

Bassett outlined several areas where industry can help the Army achieve its goals.

“I need you to have relentless focus on quality up and down the supply chain. There is nothing that can mess up a program better than having a really good, planned program making it all the way into testing, and then we find a defect,” he said. 

Shorter production times for critical repair parts is also critical. 

“What keeps me up at night is the idea that, because we haven’t had demands for a particular part in awhile, I’m going to find something in the Army’s combat vehicle fleet that’s failing, but that part is not in the supply system,” Bassett said. He added that contracting processes and manufacturing lead times shouldn’t dictate whether soldiers have the equipment they need to accomplish their missions.