Q&A with Lieutenant General Mitchell H. Stevenson
February 11, 2009
<i>Lieutenant General Mitchell H. Stevenson was commissioned a Regular Army ordnance officer from the ROTC program at West Virginia University in May 1974. After being detailed infantry initially, he was made an ordnance officer in March 1976. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. Stevenson holds a Master of Science degree in logistics management, Florida Institute of Technology and a bachelorAca,!a,,cs degree in psychology, West Virginia University. Prior to assuming his current command at Army G-4, Stevenson served as executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command, MI; support operations officer, 703rd Support Battalion, Germany; Division materiel management officer, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany; executive officer to the deputy chief of staff for logistics, Washington, D.C.; director, plans and operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Washington, D.C., and deputy chief of staff for logistics and operations, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Fort Belvoir, VA.
His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and Southwest Asia Service Medal with three stars. He has also been awarded the Expert InfantrymanAca,!a,,cs Badge.</i>
<b>Q1: What is your job as the new G-4'</b>
My job is to support our Soldiers in the field. We are at war, and supporting the wonderful Soldiers of our Army who are prosecuting that war so brilliantly is our first priority.
The G-4, like the rest of the Army staff, is a policy- and program-based organization. That is, we help execute Title 10 support to the Army -- we plan, we program for resources, we set Army-wide logistics policy, etc. While we of course pay close attention to what is going on in the here and now, we must also be thinking about the future, anticipating what will be required, and trying to ensure we are ready for any possibility.
As you would imagine, sustaining our Army, especially in these times of persistent conflict, is a huge challenge. We are always looking for ways to do it better, faster, less expensive, always with a focus on ensuring our Commanders have what they need when they need it. There is a Norman Rockwell print that hangs in our office -- it says "Let's give him Enough and On Time." That pretty well sums up the mission. We in the G-4 want to make sure everything we do helps sustain America's Army -- the strength of the Nation.
<b>Q2: What is your goal for G-4'</b>
I want us to anticipate challenges, develop innovative solutions, adapt to the rapidly changing environment, and, ultimately, always be ready.
The world has changed. With all the good globalization has done, it has also created a divide between the haves and have-nots, and the have-nots are often the prey of extremists.
Add to that the competition we face for resources like energy, the proliferation of weapons, the incredibly fast pace of change in technology, and it's easy to see the world is not the same as it was before 9/11.
So the logistics of war must change. We need to anticipate how those kind of world changes affect conflicts. Then we need to be innovative and adaptive in what we do. If we do it right, we will not only provide the most efficient and effective support we can for today's conflicts, but we will be ready for future conflicts, as well.
<b>Q3: What are your focus areas for the coming months and year'</b>
Our Chief of Staff has established four imperatives for the Army, in an effort to help us restore balance to the Army by 2011. They are: sustain, prepare, reset, and transform. They are, of course, our focus areas here in G-4 as well.
In other words, what can we do to help sustain Soldiers and their families' What do we need to do to prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict' What strategies do we need to employ to make sure we are effectively resetting the force' And how do we transform for the future'
The G-4 plays a role in each, and some of what we do spans all four areas. But because of the nature of our work, our primary focus is on preparing our troops for the current warfight, wherever that may be, and resetting them for the next mission, whatever it might be.
<b>Q4: Can you provide some examples of your progress'</b>
Sure. Let me start by talking about some of our Reset efforts.
Over the past few years, we've focused on ensuring we continue to be good stewards of the Army's property. As you can imagine, we have had, and continue to have, a lot of property in motion as units deploy and redeploy each year. My predecessor put in place a comprehensive effort dubbed "Operation Total Recall," which has been enormously successful in ensuring that all this equipment we have in motion remains properly accounted for on unit property books.
Another example is an effort we are undertaking to cut the time it takes to move our units' equipment from deployed sites. Three years ago, it was taking us upwards of 100 days to get the last of a given unit's property back to them from their deployment. We've gotten that down to an average of 58 days now, but we think we can do even better. Together with US Transportation Command and US Central Command, we've set a goal of 50 days or less. It looks like the pilot unit we tried our new processes on will come in at less than 45 days. The faster we get the equipment home, the faster we can start resetting it for the next mission, and making it available to our Commanders for training.
<b>Q5. How are the repair efforts going'</b>
They are going very well, but frankly, after seven years of war, the wear and tear on the equipment is showing. This year our depots will repair about 125,000 pieces of equipment, from helicopters, to tanks, to individual weapons. To understand the enormity of this, that is more equipment than UPS has in its entire fleet. And hundreds of thousands more pieces will be repaired at the field level.
In all, this year we plan to complete reset on 19 Brigades from Iraq and Afghanistan, and all their supporting units. That is a huge undertaking. Our Depots and Installation Reset sites are doing a tremendous job -- in fact, our depot output is now twice the output of the Vietnam era.
We've recently initiated a RESET pilot program, which aims to ensure we complete all equipment reset within six-months. Rather than implementing the program across the Army at one time, we are testing new methods on a select number of units. We're working closely with the logisticians in these units and getting feedback on how the process is going so we can make changes and adjustments. This is all part of improving the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) process and making institutional changes to support the operational Army.
<b>Q6: What about your prepare efforts' You stated that was an important piece for you.</b>
Yes it is. One key aspect of logistics is being able to have a complete picture -- where equipment is, what state it is in, and where it is scheduled to go. Having 360 degree visibility helps us prepare. I don't just mean prepare to deploy, although that is a large part of it, but to prepare for the future - plan budgets, determine requirements, and shape readiness.
With our 360 degree readiness initiative, we'll be able to look at all our systems in a holistic way, and answer three key questions: One, is the equipment where it needs to be and serviceable' Two, is the sustaining base resourced and prioritized correctly' And, three, is the sustaining base performing as planned to support the National Military Strategy and ARFORGEN'
<b>Q7: Is the G-4 doing anything in the area of transforming the Army'</b>
Absolutely. On a number of fronts. One significant one is our effort to put into place a Single Army Logistics Enterprise, or SALE. The SALE is a factory-to-foxhole logistics information management system that will modernize our current legacy management information systems, and make us much more capable of tracking life cycle sustainment for our equipment.
It takes advantage of leading Enterprise Resource Planning software, and will be used end-to-end -- from the logisticians in our tactical units, to the artisans in our depots. It's already working in pilot sites, both at the tactical level, and national level, and getting great reviews.
We also want to do more in the area of life-cycle sustainment. Right now, when the Army acquires equipment we are very good at putting out specs that say we need it to be this fast or to do this much. But about 60 percent of the total costs of weapons systems occur after they are developed and produced. So we need to better anticipate how much it will cost to sustain our equipment, much of it very technically complex, over its life-time. What will it cost not only to build, but to maintain, to fix, to have contractors work on, and to dispose of in 30, 40, or 50 years'
Finally, we still have about 15 percent of our logistics units in the Army that have not yet completed their modular transformation, and we have not yet completed our transformation to a two-level maintenance system. So we are still focused on those things and will be until completed.
<b>Q8: What are you doing to sustain Soldiers and their families'</b>
A number of things. One is that we, along with many partners, started a program to provide uniform modifications to wounded Soldiers at no cost to them. It began at Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Centers, and is now expanding across the Army. Through AAFES, wounded Soldiers can have zippers added to the seams of trousers and coat sleeves, Velcro closures on the bottom of trouser legs, or extra fabric inside the uniform.
The modifications give them easier access to prosthetics or injuries and ultimately make their uniform fit better. The program not only makes the lives of injured Soldiers easier but serves to restore a sense of pride and dignity they rightfully deserve when wearing their uniform.
We also have a new Army-wide policy -- Retained Issue -- that lets Soldiers keep their field gear when they change duty stations, rather than turning it in before they depart one duty station, only to have to redraw it at the new duty station. This creates a sense of ownership for the Soldier, and it reduces the required inventory in issue facilities. It's a good policy that will also help us reset faster.
<b>Q9. The Army published FM 3.0 in February. Is the logistics community writing its own document to support this'</b>
Yes. In the coming year, the logistics community will be publishing a companion field manual -- FM 4.0. As you know, FM 3.0 has significantly changed how Army Operations are conducted, and it is imperative that our logistics doctrine be updated to be in tune with it.
In my last job at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), we did a lot of work on the manual. Now, I want to ensure that the G-4 is working together with CASCOM to help them produce a first-rate field manual that reflects the kind of anticipating, innovative, adaptive, and always ready logistics the Army needs now and in the future.
<b>Q10. What is your most memorable assignment'</b>
My most memorable assignment is probably my time as a battalion commander in the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. We were a much less experienced Army in those days. Except for our most senior officers and NCOs who'd served in Vietnam, very few of us had deployed before then. We all found it was a lot tougher than we thought.
But through the experience, we were hardened, and forged into better logisticians than we had ever before thought possible. When we got back, we had enormous confidence, and knew from experience that there was nothing we could not accomplish. And that was just after a single deployment, and 100 or so hours of combat, in which logistics forces did not see much combat.
Today, our Army's logisticians are much more experienced, many having served multiple deployments, many having had to fight in the course of doing their jobs. I cannot tell you how proud I am of our Soldiers today -- they are simply incredible. Our Nation does not realize how lucky it is to have such men and women serving it.
<b>Q11 How did that job prepare you for your new assignment'</b>
It taught me the importance of seeing the entire system before you make changes, because those changes can have ripple effects that people don't anticipate.
Today when I make decisions I ask lots of questions that some people might think are in the weeds. I'm not trying to tell people how to do their jobs -- it's just that the business of logistics is about details, and thinking through the second and third order effects of what we are doing. Before we can improve the logistics system, we have to see the entire process to make certain helping one operation does not hurt another.
<b>Q12. What do you do in your free time'</b>
I enjoy working out, and when I get a chance, to go for a ride on my motorcycle. It's really good to just get some quiet time and think. Unfortunately, that usually results in more work for my staff though!
<i>This interview, to include photos and captions, was originally published by KMI Media Group in the October 2008 issue of Military Logistics Forum magazine.</i>