AMCOM Commander / By MG Douglas M. Gabram: The U.S. Army’s aviation legacy can be summed
up in a single word: overmatch.
We are stronger, better armed, and more skillful in battle than our adversaries. This global reputation has been hard won, and exhibited daily on the battlefield for the last 16 years. Today we risk becoming outmanned, outgunned, and outdated. To combat this, we must resuscitate a healthy focus on sustainment life-cycle planning, build depth in our supply chain, and reverse leveraging our future capabilities for immediate readiness.
As the Aviation Enterprise continues to execute the Army’s readiness priority, how do we ensure we are setting up the next generation of Army Aviators for the same success we have enjoyed? Today, our Army is engaged in persistent conflict with our aircraft as the warhorses. We must learn to balance modernization and life-cycle sustainment of an excellent, but aging fleet of aircraft. Those aircraft have served this country, and our Soldiers, with distinction, and we are asking them to do more for longer. However, we know that a day is coming when we will need to purchase something to better address our current needs based on new technology, threats and requirements.
The role of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command is vital as we seek to extend the life of our aircraft to meet current and future Army requirements. Assessments suggest sustainment comprises up to 70% of the costs in the life-cycle of a system. If the Army intends to operate our systems longer, integrating comprehensive sustainment plans earlier in development and acquisition will reduce overall costs, making future systems more affordable. Quick wins are good for building forward momentum, but not when the second and third order effects reduce maneuver space in the future.
reviously, we relied on partnerships for contract-provided maintenance strategies envisioned to be lower cost and more efficient than organic support. The unintended effects of this arrangement were the erosion of the proficiency among our aviation maintainers and supply experts, and increased costs through requirements creep. As a result, we are experiencing lukewarm production lines, just-in-time procurement practices that limit strategic depth, obstacles to acquiring tech data rights that might allow us to repair and manufacture components, and competition for parts between modernizing fleets and operational units.
Army Aviation must collaboratively design a more efficient, cost effective sustainment infrastructure that promotes aircraft readiness and enables affordable modernization while maintaining our competitive edge in combat.
Army Aviation’s future is evolving, and at AMCOM we are diligently reorganizing and operationalizing our infrastructure to create solutions today that will support and enable the future. Our end-state is to demonstrate what GEN Gus Perna calls ‘operationalizing output for the Soldier.’ For AMCOM, this means improving supply chain depth. To do so, we are improving parts forecasting and planning to generate on-hand stocks that will guarantee our Soldiers have the parts they need. There is a fine balance between procurement of parts, responsible levels of stock on hand, and preparing for contingency requirements. The AMCOM Logistics Center and item managers are carefully tracking, managing and acquiring parts that influence readiness, ensuring our processes are optimized to support the Soldier. The AMCOM Team has always been excellent at supporting the Soldier in the field, but in fiscally challenging times, we have found that there are areas where we can adjust the dials to be even better.
The terrain and conditions we have fought in for sixteen years are changing. The wear and tear on our aircraft will be different. There will be opportunities for AMCOM to shape an improved sustainable materiel readiness capacity that enables success in new operational environments and across domains. The next several articles in this issue will describe some of the efforts that we are undertaking to be an even better partner to the enterprise, and support a premier fighting force of Army Aviators today and in the future.
MG Douglas M. Gabram is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL.