FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Sept. 3, 2014) -- As the Army continues to upgrade WIN-T Increment 1, the tactical communications network backbone that first began supporting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is also transitioning its sustainment strategy for the equipment from worldwide contracted support centers to standard organic support back in the U.S.

According to Caroline McCarthy, Readiness Management Division chief for Product Manager (PdM) WIN-T Inc 1, sustainment efforts will enable Soldiers to order repair and spare parts for WIN-T Increment 1 from the Standard Army Retail Supply System (SARSS) instead of relying on contractor operated Regional Support Centers (RSCs). "We are also for the first time teaming with Tobyhanna Army Depot for WIN-T Increment 1 equipment overhaul, which brings aging equipment coming in from theater to a like-new state," she said.

WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers at the battalion level and above with at-the-halt, high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications. The Army began rapidly fielding it in 2004 to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, leveraging the Joint Network Node (JNN) Operational Needs Statement. To support a dynamic and aggressive fielding timeline, the program office used an Interim Contractor Support (ICS) RSC repair concept.

"Overall, the ICS RSC concept provided excellent support of WIN-T Increment 1 systems over the years and allowed us to maintain 99 percent operational readiness reporting," McCarthy said. "Now that the system is mature, we are simply aligning it with the traditional repair process used by the Army."

The transition has already begun in Afghanistan with the closing of the two WIN-T Increment 1 RSCs there in June. WIN-T Increment 1 requirements at the other five worldwide RSCs are expected to be transitioned to the SARSS by the second quarter of FY 2015. Even though the RSCs are closing out repair support for WIN-T Increment 1 in theater, the RSCs will still actively support WIN-T Increment 2, Product Manager Computer and Networking equipment provided under the Common Hardware Systems (CHS) contract, and other customers.

PdM WIN-T teamed with Communications and Electronic Command Logistics Readiness Center (CECOM LRC) to transition approximately 40 percent of WIN-T Inc 1 spare and repair parts from RSC support to SARSS. The other 60 percent are commercial-off-the-shelf items, such as laptops, routers and switches, which do not fit the SARSS model and will continue to be supported by CHS.

"Now that WIN-T Increment 1 has matured, Soldiers will be required to requisition parts under the SARSS process and will be more accountable for their equipment," McCarthy said.

CECOM LRC traditionally takes over the role of sustainer when project management offices have completed fielding new programs. Among other roles, the organization acts as a supply chain manager, buying spare or repair parts and having items on the shelf to fill the requisitions. In mature communications programs when equipment fails, Soldiers submit requisitions through the SARSS to obtain repair parts. However, since the Army rapidly fielded WIN-T Increment 1, it used the RSCs for units to turn in equipment needing repair.

"Soldiers will be able to go through the normal requisitioning process they are used to under the SARSS process for parts, which is what many units have been asking for as they have been operating outside the normal requisitioning process," said Kevin Joyce, Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) lead for PdM WIN-T Inc 1. "It standardizes the process, using the same rules as most other systems managed under CECOM."

The transition process can be complicated, especially with an advanced communication system like WIN-T Increment 1. WIN-T Increment 1 is a system of systems, with multiple terminals, variations and equipment with many different parts. It takes time to set up WIN-T into the SARSS, which must then be updated following system upgrades. Using the RSCs works well in the beginning stages of a program like WIN-T Increment 1, but SARSS is often the most efficient and economical process. However, the system has to be in the right stage of its lifecycle and the program has to be prepared for the transition to SARRS.

CECOM LRC teamed with PdM WIN-T in the early stages of sustainment planning to lay out the roadmap for future sustainment plans, which set the stage for an easier transition from the RSCs to organic support, said Thomas Keane, chief of the Increment 1 Branch in the CECOM LRC - Command, Control, Communications-Tactical Directorate.

Overhaul Under Way

Meanwhile, overhaul for WIN-T Increment 1 Lot 9 satellite transportable terminals (STTs) is already underway at Tobyhanna (TYAD), with Lot 10 STTs set to begin at a later date. The effort marks the first time since the program began fielding in 2004 that they will be overhauled. The Army selected the STTs to kick off the TYAD WIN-T Inc 1 overhaul effort due to the large number of STTs in the WIN-T Increment 1 program and the amount of battlefield wear and tear on them. It will start with a small pilot program that will ramp up as Tobyhanna optimizes the new overhaul process. The Army is also working to add the baseband tactical hub nodes and JNNs to the TYAD efforts as well.

"As part of our Lean Six Sigma efforts, prior to beginning the work on the STTs, we did a value stream analysis to map out the overhaul processes from beginning to end," said Thomas Vilgos, a logistics management specialist at TYAD. "This is a new program for us and we will continue to improve and tweak the internal processes and steps for the WIN-T Increment 1 overhaul to get the job done in the most efficient manner."

TYAD is conducting the STT overhaul using pooled STTs from the retrograde effort to enable an easier turnaround of unit equipment, thus enabling the use of a supply transaction instead of a maintenance transaction. This STT retrograde pool is made of equipment from units that no longer need their WIN- T Increment 1 equipment because they are either deactivating or receiving new mobile WIN-T Increment 2 equipment instead. Upon receiving overhauled STTs, units will then return their repair-eligible STTs back to TYAD to be overhauled.

"It's more of a rotational concept and not a direct exchange, which provides efficiencies for the Army since there is no down time to the unit and they remain mission ready," Joyce said. "The unit doesn't have to send their equipment to Tobyhanna and wait 70 days to get it back."

Said Keane, "For most of the tactical Army, WIN-T Increment 1 is their expeditionary network, providing Soldiers at the battalion level and above with at-the-halt, high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications. Transforming the way such an extensive program is sustained takes a great deal of cooperation and collaboration between organizations.".

He added, "Supporting the transition of supply support from the RSCs to SARSS and establishing an organic overhaul program on the STTs has been a tremendous team effort between PM WIN-T, CECOM LRC and Tobyhanna Army Depot. Everyone on the team has an important role, from tech writers to item managers to the ILS managers; everybody is doing their part to ensure a smooth transition."