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Industrial base leaders discuss progress and COVID-19 impacts

Social distancing due to COVID-19, and an Army travel ban, keep Lt. Col. Russell Henry, Sierra Army Depot commander, hundreds of miles distant from other Tank-automotive and Armaments Command leaders gathered for a quarterly update to Army Materiel Command leadership. Henry is pictured responding to Lt. Gen. Edward Daly, AMC deputy commander, during the May 13 teleconference. (Photo courtesy of Sierra Army Depot Public Affairs)
May 14, 2020

This report originally published at dvidshub.net (DVIDS) and is reprinted in accordance with DVIDS guidelines and copyright guidance.

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. – Despite challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, across the board progress, as noted by the Tank-automotive and Armaments Command’s Integrated Logistics Support Center director, Marion Whicker, has been steadily trending toward targeted base-line readiness numbers of 90%.

“We had a low in supply availability in January of 2019,” Whicker recalled. “We were recovering from a lot of different things. In the last 16 months, supply availability has gone up 26 percent. The investments that we have made over the past three and a half years, we’re seeing the fruits of those labors right now.”

“We’re not resting on our laurels, there’s plenty more work to do,” she told leadership who had gathered telephonically from TACOM’s arsenal and depot industrial base — Red River Army Depot, Watervliet Arsenal, Anniston Army Depot, Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Sierra Army Depot and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima — to present mission progress and readiness efforts in a quarterly update to Army Materiel Command.

The meeting, normally an in-person event to allow for a greater degree of collaboration, had shifted to a video teleconferencing event due to current Army travel restrictions travel in light of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Commanders and representatives from TACOM partner organizations, including the Defense Logistics Agency and Army Contracting Command – Detroit Arsenal, also participated in the update to Lt. Gen. Edward Daly, AMC’s deputy commander.

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“It’s a pretty good news story,” Maj. Gen. Daniel Mitchell, TACOM commander, said regarding the organization’s supply chain optimization efforts. “We’re buying the right stuff and the depots and arsenals are focusing on minimizing backorders. Backorders have gone down considerably and readiness is going up.”

“When you juxtapose (readiness numbers) from November, 2016 to now, it’s like night and day,” Daly commented. “How do we get those readiness rates over 90 percent?”

In answering his own question, he broke things down to supply-chain fundamentals.

“Part of it is maintenance, and part of it is supply. If we do our part on the supply side, and units do their part on the maintenance to support any trouble shooting, diagnostic trouble shooting, processing repair parts, then we’ll inevitably get over 90 percent.”

“TACOM is certainly leading the effort in impacting tactical readiness,” the lieutenant general added.

Daly also discussed efforts to normalize and fund repair cycle float, or the process of identifying unserviceable major end item equipment for depot turn-in in order to be remanufactured and returned to a field unit. “What’s the (strategic communication) to get after this so that, one, we can institutionalize this and, two, we can get (RCF) into a good action plan that is executed in perpetuity?”

“I want to give a shout out to Watervliet and Rock Island,” Whicker said when the discussion turned to individual arsenal and depot updates. “They are making marked improvements,” she noted of their performance-to-promise rates that contributed to an overall TACOM rate currently standing at 97 %.

Some of the more notable projects supporting Army readiness discussed by arsenal and depot commanders included the RRAD HMMWV Ambulance upgrade in partnership with RIA-JMTC, RIA-JMTC’s work on the Heavy Equipment Urban Survivability Kit, or HUSK, and SIAD’s work in support of personal protective equipment procurement.

Arsenal and depot commanders’ updates included discussions of recent COVID-19 impacts on their workforces, highlighting various efforts to protect personnel, an Army top priority.

“We’ve been able to minimize the impact (of COVID-19) to a certain extent,” reported Col. Stephen York, RRAD commander, noting that some projects had been slowed due to workforce protection concerns.

Screening efforts, teleworking coordination and personal protection equipment availability were noted by several participants to have contributed to minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on workflows in the several weeks of dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

The quarterly update was also Mitchell’s last as TACOM commander.

“For me, it’s been a pleasure working with this team,” he said, “and the great support we’ve gotten from AMC on contract authority, focus and vision – it’s really come a long way, as you can see, and we’ve got a lot to be proud of. It’s been an honor for me to be a part of this team and make a difference in readiness every day.”

“This team is very collaborative and we all work together very well,” Mitchell added.

The telephonic meeting included individual recognition of six TACOM employees for recent achievements and leadership in support of Army readiness. Those recognized were the ILSC’s Will Currier, Greg Paavo and Sean O’Donoghue, in addition to Ahmed Mawari from TACOM’s headquarters. Travis Brokaw and Terry Hirst, both of RIA-JMTC, were recognized as well.

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