Industry and military leaders across the Army aviation enterprise attended the 10th Annual Luther G. Jones Professional Aviation Forum in downtown Corpus Christi, Texas at the American Bank Center, September 25-27.
As budget cuts and the possibility of sequestration looms over the heads of those within Department of Defense (DoD) and their partners, the three-day event, sponsored by the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA), was appropriately themed "Cost-Wise Readiness." The forum centered on ways Army aviation is reducing cost while maintaining superior capabilities and support to the Joint Warfighter at the Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) and Army Materiel Command (AMC) levels.
The biggest names in Army aviation could be found at this forum providing the latest aviation updates, including Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, Commanding General, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence; Maj. Gen. William T. Crosby, Program Executive Officer, Aviation; Col. Jim Baker, Ops Officer, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center; and Col. Clayton Hutmacher, Commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command.
"If we don't get more efficient, we will lose the resources we have," Maj. Gen. Crosby said to a crowded room of military, local and political leaders, private sector and civilians. "We owe it to ourselves to have a system that gives visibility. We need to get from reactive to proactive maintenance. That's what we owe the Soldier."
Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) commander, Col. Christopher B. Carlile believes that it is time for the Army to evolve its thinking if it hopes to survive these budget cuts--getting away from thinking like the government and towards thinking like big business. The sense of comfort and job security that normally comes with being government does not exist anymore. With the threat of sequestration and shrinking budgets, it's time for the government to evolve.
CCAD was the focus of the forum as the premier Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) helicopter facility for big Army. Though the depot offers DoD a critical service through helicopter support, the depot is striving to transform the government's sullied reputation of wasteful spending and questionable practices by streamlining their own processes, minimizing cost and working towards a goal of 100% accountability and visibility. By becoming more efficient and through making wiser business decisions like these, Col. Carlile believes Army could not only survive, but thrive through reduced budgets.
Col. Carlile assumed command of the depot in 2010 and launched an effort that would spark a change that could be felt all the way up to the Pentagon. After studying best industry practices in the private sector, Col. Carlile knew it was time for change at CCAD. He realigned the main components of the MRO helicopter facility, changing the way business had been done at CCAD for 50 years. Efficiency became the new normal and employees were encouraged to find better,
faster and less expensive ways of doing their everyday mission. The workforce understood the sense of urgency and the need to adapt so they started doing things differently. They organized, analyzed and researched every process to find areas of improvement. Every
improvement brought to the table is now being recorded, reported and implemented as the new standard of operation. Col. Carlile says CCAD has become a cost-conscious culture and he attributes that success to the workforce and partners. It is the Colonel's hope that other Army depots and federal agencies perform similar transformations to adapt to the new financial and operational climate of a nation coming out of war.
The commander shared this journey of change at the Luther Jones Forum, including lessons learned and the struggles to success but the results really spoke for themselves. Col. Carlile announced that his workforce broke last year's production record by recapitalizing 50 UH-60s in Fiscal Year 2012. Army has a limited number of Black Hawks in their fleet and they have been flying longer, higher and harder than they were ever expected to fly. When they come to CCAD,
artisans restore and modify them to better-than-new condition with an extended service life and with the latest technology and capabilities.
CCAD has been actively recapping the Alpha model Black Hawk to the Lima model configuration and are now recapping L to L Black Hawks. Col. Carlile presented a special plaque commemorating the 50th Black Hawk to Maj. Gen. William T. Crosby, the Program Executive
Officer of Aviation.
The depot was also highlighted for other cost avoiding changes that will take Army aviation into the future. CCAD is busy replenishing the fleet of OH-58 Kiowa Warriors, the Army's primary attack helicopter.
Most Kiowa Warriors have either been destroyed or are beyond economical repair. The Army is aggressively pursuing ways to sustain the fleet and recognizes the cost-saving opportunities by investing in CCAD and their partnerships.
CCAD is also retiring programs on legacy aircraft to add capability for new work on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). "Last year I talked about doing some UAS work with CCAD," said UAS Program Manager Col. Tim Baxter. "CCAD is now part of our program for our Shadow….and we are looking across our joint services as we work towards our future."
CCAD will modify the existing Shadow UAS fleet using a special configuration that will enable the aircraft to achieve greater station time and upgraded mission modules. The depot is making the initiative to reduce the cost to the aviation enterprise for repair and modifications of the Shadow UAS.
"As defense dollars shrink, we want to showcase our depot as a modernized facility that adopts best business practices," said Art Gomez, Business Development Specialist.
"What your team has done at CCAD is unparallel," Maj. Gen. Crosby said. "There's no other depot that does what this depot does." The depot's impact doesn't stop with Army aviation. The depot's initiative has been making waves all the way up to the Pentagon as methods to adapt to a smaller budget are being pursued across DoD.
The very system of overhaul, repair and recapitalization is designed to save the Army from paying a larger bill to purchase new aircraft each time one is damaged, weathered or out of date. In many cases, there are no replacement aircraft that have the capability the DoD needs. If there were, the cost of replacing them would be exorbitant. That's why CCAD does what it does to sustain the nation's fleet readiness."The level of effort in aviation maintenance is absolutely huge and we have to resource that," said Maj. Gen. Mangum, Program Executive Officer of USAACE and Ft. Rucker. "We've been paying for aviation sustainment and reset with supplemental and other aviation money. We have to get that back to keep this fleet alive in the future."
"We're all going to get a lot of pressure to consolidate. We have to look strategically at the mission we're doing with our Soldiers and the objective of how we organize with a downsize in support," said Maj. Gen. Crosby. The ultimate goal of all this is to better serve the Joint Warfighter and the American taxpayer--to be better, faster and more cost effective to ensure America's future.
The aviation forum has evolved in its ten years from a local discussion on engine issues into an aviation enterprise-wide event attracting military and businesses nationwide. Warfighters, program managers, original equipment manufacturers and contractors got a chance to explore aviation maintenance and future combat aviation brigade readiness with in-depth panel discussions.
CCAD's interactive booth and discussions highlighted the depot's journey. A high-tech exhibit featured a scale replica of Hangar 8 where visitors could learn how CCAD produces OH-58 Kiowa Warriors through six touch screen display kiosks detailing the history and the process. Two televisions featured the new CCAD Command Video, live footage direct from the depot and live social media updates.
Guest speakers included Congressional Representative Blake Farenthold and Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame who stressed the significance of CCAD as one of the major employers and financial contributors in South Texas. CCAD hosted a business integration panel for local businesses and colleges to discuss how they contribute to Army aviation, providing the most relevant and responsive support for the Joint Warfighter to achieve the highest possible readiness. Representatives from the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Center, Del Mar College's Small Business Development Center, Corpus Christi Port Authority, Knowledge Based Systems Inc., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Institutional Advancement and the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce attended the panel.