Editor's note: The joint force is preparing for large scale combat across land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. Under the Multi-Domain Operations concept, Army Materiel Command has reorganized and reshaped to ensures readiness of the Strategic Support Area, where military might is generated, projected and sustained during the fight. This article is the first in a series highlighting seven focus areas to achieve that goal: Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness; Industrial Base Readiness; Installation Readiness; Strategic Power Projection; Munitions Readiness; Soldier and Family Readiness; and Logistics Information Readiness.


One proverb looms heavily over military logistics that reads:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This chain of causality describes a state of readiness that failed to perceive the initial conditions of the equipment which cascaded into defeat.

At U.S. Army Materiel Command, supply availability and equipment readiness are the nails that win the battle. They are the foundation of materiel readiness, ensuring Soldiers and units have the right equipment, parts and materiel to achieve their mission -- anytime, anyplace.

The job of AMC's premier logisticians is to ensure they identify the chains of causality, which are normally only perceived in hindsight, and correct them before the action begins. If they don't spot the missing nail -- the failed piece of equipment -- they risk disaster and loss of lives. The kingdom may be lost.

Some would argue that this sensitive dependence on initial conditions is merely conjecture -- no outcome can be accurately predicted. Chief Justice John Roberts said so in his dissent to MASSACHUSETTS v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. He said that the "want of a horseshoe nail" may be the possible cause of future events, but it cannot be proven that it is the likely cause of that downfall. At AMC, we cannot hope this is the case; we must be ready. As AMC Commanding General Gen. Gus Perna said, "We don't pick the day. We must be ready when the call comes. The difference between readiness and reacting will be measured in lives lost."

The Army, and as its premier logistics and sustainment command, AMC, must have responsive systems and processes to ensure that when a Soldier requires supplies, no matter the class, they have access to them and that they function as intended.

"We are driving to make sure what we own is ready to fight," said Perna. "Our responsibility is to ensure our Army's equipment is prepared as much as possible."

In the past two and a half years, the Army has laterally transferred more than 685,000 pieces of equipment, moving it to the right units to increase readiness and build the Army's focused units, including new Brigade Combat Teams and Security Force Assistance Brigades.

AMC established a repair cycle float capability to rapidly replace battle-damaged equipment. The command is working with industry to provide predictive maintenance capabilities so that logisticians can see the future and have repair parts where they need to be before they're required. AMC's goal is to identify and predict mechanical failures in advance to build better depth, breadth and velocity in the supply chain in support of tactical unit needs to extend the time and reach for protracted operations. To support this, AMC increased capital investments in repair parts and other commodities by about $2 billion per year over the last two years.

During that same time, more than 1.2 million pieces of equipment were divested, freeing up storage space, avoiding the cost of future storage, and unburdening units Army-wide from maintaining obsolete equipment. Looking ahead, AMC is focused on identifying and divesting even more excess, driving additional cost avoidance, and more importantly, saving valuable time for our maintainers and supply personnel. It is easier to see the missing nail if you are not burdened with systems that are no longer in use.

AMC is getting better every day in terms of forecasting -- and funding -- our requirements with DLA and industry, using longer-term acquisition strategies, working to improve both the breadth and the strategic depth of our repair parts and other commodities. The chain of causality begins with AMC and it will be ready.

History proves the want of a nail matters when the fight begins. We can trace the chain from failures of supply availability and equipment readiness and learn from them to improve for the future.

In the days leading up to World War II, the U.S. Navy knew Mark XIV torpedoes would be a vital part of their war effort, but they failed to maintain supply availability and equipment readiness. They wanted for a nail. The chain of causality began with a severe shortage of torpedoes (supply readiness) and continued with manufacturing that was woefully inadequate to the task (equipment readiness). Production planning was abysmal -- the manufacturing process was only able to finish 23 torpedoes per day despite continual operations. The cost of torpedo manufacturing led to a reluctance to test live ordnance, and untested designs led to failures on the battlefront. The Mark XIV missed targets exploded prematurely, failed to detonate on impact, or more dangerously, tended to circle back to the firing vessel. It took 21months -- almost two years at war -- to isolate all the problems in the Mark XIV and replace them, and still shortages persisted until almost the end of the war.

For want of a nail -- failures in supply availability and equipment readiness, the battle persisted. The submarine forces inflicted major losses despite these failures, but the hindsight that identified the problems would not have been necessary had more predictive techniques and logistical solutions been in place.

Army Soldiers will not want for a nail because U.S. Army Materiel Command is on the job planning for the future to ensure supply availability and equipment readiness.

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