By Lisa SimunaciOctober 11, 2018
Decisions that determine workload at the Army's manufacturing arsenals, maintenance depots and ammunition plants are hinging on a new focus: Army readiness, quality people and quality products.
"This is a paradigm shift - the trajectory is changing," said Army Materiel Command's Gen. Gus Perna in a Sept. 28 meeting that included arsenal, depot and plant commanders, as well as their higher headquarters' general officers. Perna directed commanders to shift their thinking and approach.
"It's not about workload; it is about what we produce to our promise. We must execute, provide quality and hold ourselves accountable to timelines," Perna said. "The reason is clear. Our fellow Soldiers - America's sons and daughters - are depending on our equipment. It is our responsibility."
Army Materiel Command oversees the 23 facilities that make up the Army's Organic Industrial Base. That base spans from California's Sierra Army Depot, where a temperate climate is ideal for housing military equipment returning from overseas, to New York's Watervliet Arsenal, which has supplied weapons parts for American troops since the War of 1812.
"Our Organic Industrial Base is well respected with great men and women who work hard to provide a commodity for our Soldiers," Perna said. "While we have great pockets of planning and implementation - collectively across the board, we have been on auto pilot."
The Army's Organic Industrial Base has surged to support the nation's wars, swelling to produce parts, ammunition and reset equipment.
Largely a legacy of World War II, the number of industrial facilities began a drastic decline at the end of the Vietnam War. At today's remaining locations, workload ebbs and flows as the demand for warfighting equipment fluctuates.
With projected orders for FY19 exceeding $4 billion, Perna noted the general officers and their staffs are responsible for managing workload, resources, equipment and repair parts, but cautioned them not to be enamored by their numbers.
"We are not always going to be 100 percent efficient, but we must always be 100 percent effective," Perna told leaders. "That's my intent - and your responsibility."
Perna outlined a commander-led approach to future business incorporating centralized planning and decentralized execution. Repeating a familiar mantra, Perna cautioned leaders to focus on the right metrics and leading indicators and to raise issues that need attention.
"I fundamentally believe we are on a hamster wheel. I want leader-led risk. If we don't have the right resources or repair parts, I want to hear it and I want to drive on it," Perna said. "We are a business and our business is Army readiness. Sometimes leaders have to make decisions that are more about effectiveness than efficiency."
Perna told commanders he would underwrite risk where it makes sense and when it is legal, moral and ethical.
"If it costs two dollars to be more effective, make the call." he charged while cautioning he was not writing a blank check. "Understand the responsibility for our resources and lead your way through it."
Predictable, consistent funding and workload are important moving forward, Perna noted. So are an understanding of the standards to which the organization will be accountable.
"We will hold ourselves accountable to output, not metrics on charts," Perna said. "We will drive ourselves to increase readiness. We have to have high standards and retain the right workforce. If we focus on readiness, on workforce and quality work, that is how we will know we are doing things right."