REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Value engineering can be as simple as retrofitting a cable with an adapter that allows a connection with an improved power source.

In 2014, the Aviation Ground Support Equipment Product Office became aware of the need for a new power distribution panel for the Army's Aviation Unit Maintenance Shop Set, which is a mobile aviation maintenance and repair shop containing more than 200 items and systems used by Soldiers to maintain Army rotary wing aircraft in the field. The existing power distribution panels used to supply electricity to the 492 unit maintenance shops were costly to repair, obsolete and difficult to move with the unit.

After reviewing available power sources, a team of AGSE personnel, led by engineer Karlee McMichael and technical branch chief Alivio Mangieri, determined that another power distribution panel -- newer technology, more reliable and lighter in weight -- used by Army aviation would be a good replacement. The only problem was the connector cables didn't match.

"We made an adaptable cable, a five-foot long pigtail cable, so we could use the old 60-foot cable with the new power distribution panel," Mangieri said.

"Being able to reuse the cables saved money because they are $2,500 each and we have 1,476 cables. Finding another power distribution panel allowed us to replace 1980s technology that we couldn't buy anymore and, even to repair, we couldn't find the components. Because they were no longer making them, the older power distribution panel that once cost us $9,000 each now would cost us $70,000 a piece."

The adaptable cable ended up saving AMCOM and the Army more than $7 million, and gave Soldiers more reliability, sustainability and maintainability along with reducing weight so that a two-man team can move the panel instead of a fork lift.

The AGSE team, which is part of the Program Executive Office for Aviation, was recognized recently with a Department of Defense Value Engineering Achievement Award in a Pentagon ceremony honoring the best value engineering initiatives for fiscal year 2015. AGSE's value engineering initiative was submitted by the Aviation and Missile Command as a team nomination. It was among 98 AMCOM-related VE initiatives that allowed AMCOM to also win recognition as the Army's top value engineering organization for the second year in a row. AMCOM and its predecessor the Missile Command has met its value engineering goals for the past 30 years.

"This year's recipients of the VE Achievement Awards have executed superior VE related efforts, providing more capability to the warfighter through cost savings or cost avoidances, quality improvements and efficiencies to the DoD," said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for Defense.

Besides AMCOM, the other Redstone Arsenal VE winner is the Missile Defense Agency, which won an organization award for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Project Office, an individual award for Brian Maples of the THAAD Ground Components and a team award for the THAAD Force Integration and Training Devices Team.

"Each branch of the military can compete for Value Engineering Achievement Awards. In the Army, AMCOM competes with the Tank and Automotive Command, the Communications-Electronics Command, the Corps of Engineers and units with the Forces Command and the Training and Doctrine Command. You've got most of the organizations at the enterprise level competing," said Tom Reynolds, who oversees the Team Redstone Value Engineering Office, which is part of the Aviation and Missile Research, Engineering and Development Center's Engineering Directorate.

"The organization award is the top award to get. It says a whole lot about your organization, about meeting value engineering goals better than any other organization. Taxpayers deserve nothing less and our Soldiers get the very best equipment possible."

While the VE awards program uses cost savings as the criteria for the competition, Reynolds said organizations that practice VE reap other benefits as well.

"A lot of what we do in value engineering shows up in other areas besides cost savings," Reynolds said.

"It also shows up in mitigated obsolescence, improved quality, expanded industrial base, reduced weight, minimized cycle times, new repairs, enhanced performance, updated technology, shrunk inventories, decreased administrative burden, optimized power consumption and increased readiness. The measuring stick, though, is cost savings. Everyone is focused on being more efficient day in and day out. For us as engineers, it's about doing what's right for Soldiers and what's right for the taxpayer."

In fiscal 2015, the AMCOM Materiel Enterprise achieved 103 percent of its $113 million goal, saving $117 million through value engineering. Contributing to that total was the PEO for Aviation with $26 million in savings, the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space with $22 million in savings, AMRDEC with $43 million in savings, the AMCOM Logistics Center with $14 million in savings and the Corpus Christi Army Depot (Texas) with $11 million savings.

Significant value engineering projects submitted with the AMCOM organization nomination included: Retrofitting existing M1085A1P2 trucks with cargo beds in support of the Patriot missile system; Reducing the cost of the JAMs Hellfire power supply by qualifying a second source; Combining live fire tests for the HIMARS and ATACMs missile systems; and Repairing instead of buying T700 engine parts through 26 VE initiatives.

Costs savings and increasing Soldier capabilities are the top priorities for value engineering. But the AGSE project did even more than that -- it brought the high energy and determination of a young engineer -- Karlee McMichael of AMRDEC -- learning how to work for the Army together with the experience of senior engineers, including Alivio Mangieri, Donald Broxson, Doug Cowart, Nathan Ashburn, Brad Jennings, Roger Miller and William Doughty.

"Leading this project gave me a lot of responsibility," said McMichael, who is an Alabama A&M University electrical engineer graduate.

"It taught me how to lead other engineers and how to effectively manage different projects. I like the challenge of making equipment better for Soldiers. What I've learned here and the experience I've gained really sets me up for the future in the best way possible."