By Sgt. Eben BoothbyApril 26, 2017
TAMPA, FLORIDA - "The Army has been in the middle of the fight for so long it has forgotten how to get to the fight."
Gen. "Gus" Perna Commanding General of Army Materiel Command said to industry representatives during the National Defense Industrial Association Logistics Forum, April 20.
Perna related his time deployed to Iraq as an expeditionary logistics commander. "When we crossed from Kuwait into Iraq in 2003 there was one thing I truly understood. If something broke Soldiers had to fix it or we had to find a new piece of equipment, no one else was around to help. Soldiers had to be trained and confident with the logistics processes and understand the mission."
Perna said he was very proud because he knew it was his Soldiers that were solely responsible for the success of the mission. Only a few years later the entire logistics landscape had changed.
"When I returned in 2005 and 2010, the battlefield was surrounded by contractor support. This was a good thing, it allowed us other capabilities and allowed Soldiers to focus on the battle." Perna said. "The bad part is after 15 years of this we created some very bad habits."
Perna described the consequences of the Army's heavy reliance on contractors to solve logistics challenges.
"We basically eliminated the logistics force off the battlefield and replaced it with contractors. The skills have atrophied for logistics soldiers." Perna said. "The skill of the logistics Soldiers to synchronize, integrate, transportation in support of the maneuver commanders has atrophied."
He went on to paint a picture of the state of affairs of the world as it continues to be an increasingly hostile place, the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan could last many more years
"To compound the problem of atrophied skills, the Army is getting smaller, in both people and equipment." Perna said. "We need our logistics and sustainment skills to be greater than they were previous to 2003, not less."
Perna told the assembled industry representatives. "We need to be focused on output to the warfighter and solving problems together not getting caught up within our processes or simply writing and fulfilling requirements."
He stressed the importance of the partnership the military has with industry and thanked them for everything they do in support of the Army.
He then delivered a reality check to industry representatives by highlighting the differences of motivation within the partnership.
"I firmly believe that while the fundamentals of capitalism are the cornerstone of industry, I am responsible for making sure the materiel readiness of the United States Army is ready for the next war."