News | Sept. 13, 2016

Army, DLA senior leaders discuss ways to improve readiness via close work on metrics, other areas

By John Bell

Senior leaders from the Army and the Defense Logistics Agency discussed how they can better track and project shortages in military equipment and more fully adopt a common system for monitoring disposal of excess or worn-out equipment at the annual Army/DLA Day at the Pentagon Sept. 8.

The event, led by Army Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna, deputy chief of staff for the Army’s logistics enterprise, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch, director of DLA, included several commanders and directors of DLA’s primary-level field activities, civilian and military, as well as the senior enlisted advisor for both organizations and from the Army Materiel Command.

Perna is a former commander of DLA Troop Support and in 2012 was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

A major focus was reducing shortages at deployed Army units. Although the Army is smaller in numbers than in recent years, there will be less advanced notice and less if any theater-provided equipment, Perna noted. Given those factors, “we have a lot of work to do inside the Army, but we need a lot of help from DLA,” he said.  The group focused on several parts and systems for the M1A1 Abrams tank, analyzing how better metrics could forecast shortages more accurately.

Perna noted that the Army chief of staff will soon require him to present quarterly readiness metrics that offer greater specificity. This means proactive, leading indicators of future needs, he emphasized, rather than, for example, a fleet-readiness status from last month.

Those leading indicators will include recent metrics on all combat systems, including aviation, ground combat, ground support, as well as munitions, Perna said.

Busch affirmed DLA’s commitment to help the Army in that endeavor and noted that the mission to increase readiness without increases in funding is key to DLA’s supporting role. “My mission for the 21 months that I’ve been the director has been to find willing partners” such as the Army logistics staff, he said. “This is exactly where the logistics enterprise ought to be going.”

To that end, “I’ve asked the staff and PLFAs to look at the metrics we’re using and pull out the things our customers are looking at that aren’t always [coded] ‘green’,” Busch said.

Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, the Army’s director of operations for logistics and previously the commander of DLA Troop Support, was frank about the difficulties. “We’re not making good on ground or aviation [readiness] standards,” he said.

“The supply chain is one part of the story — looking behind us to see if the contractor’s going to do it,” Shapiro said. “We need trained warrant officers to diagnose and build the right demands — not just the supply chain.” 

The group also discussed contracting challenges, such as long-term contracts that have long wait times, inconsistent use of authorized stockage lists, and the difficulty of using an accurate algorithm, given a consistently high operational tempo. However, noted Shapiro: “DLA has done a lot of work reducing acquisition lead times.”

One area for improvement is where numerous parts or items are either not on a contract or have a contract that has not yet been ratified. “We have to do more corporate contracting,” Perna said, eliciting a nod of agreement from Busch.

A third area of major discussion was divestiture. Current problems range from Army units not sending “carcasses” of inoperable vehicles in for repair promptly to out-of-cycle turn-ins and choke points in the process.

However, Mike Cannon, director of DLA Disposition Services, recalled telling his Army interlocutors in the first-ever Army/DLA Day, “If you can tell me what, when and where and get us involved early in the planning process, we can support you. And you’ve done that,” he said.  “And honestly, I think our partnership right now is better than it’s ever been right now between Disposition Services and the Army,” Cannon added. 

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Tobin, the DLA senior enlisted leader, noted that educating the senior noncommissioned officers will be key to making sure everyone uses the same system and thanked the DLA and Army staff for their ongoing hard work in making both groups’ processes more efficient.