Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, stressed readiness and the ability to surge for large-scale ground combat operations during his visit to the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) headquarters on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

In his first update to Perna in his new role as CECOM commanding general, Maj. Gen. Mitch Kilgo said the briefing would be an opportunity for him and the entire command to learn about Perna's priorities and intent. Simultaneously, hundreds of command employees assembled in an auditorium to watch and absorb the briefing on screen.

Perna noted that since his last visit, the Army has a new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, as well as a new Vice Chief of Staff and Sergeant Major of the Army. This change in leadership did not mean a change in direction toward readiness, modernization and reform, Perna said, though there would be a shift in approach.

"The chief is saying we need to get out of the industrial age and move into the information age," Perna said. "What he was talking about is, how do we do things differently to achieve the outcomes we want? We have to use our imaginations."

Readiness of the Strategic Support Area

CECOM aligned its briefing topics to correspond with Perna's priorities for ensuring readiness of the strategic support area, where military might is generated, projected and sustained during the fight.

The first priority area, industrial base readiness, included a briefing from Col. John McDonald, commander of the Tobyhanna Army Depot. McDonald said Tobyhanna had seen strong order growth in fiscal year 2020, and that it had raised its Performance to Promise, a broad cross-metric measure of depot performance, to 95% in fiscal year 2019. He also outlined Tobyhanna modernization efforts, including the construction of a state-of-the-art electronics maintenance facility that enhances the depot's repair throughout capacity.

Complementing McDonald, Software Engineering Center (SEC) Director Jennifer Zbozny discussed SEC efforts to retrain its workforce with the latest cyber skills as it automates more of the software testing work those employees performed previously.

Perna praised the retraining effort. "We're not going to get lots more money to get more contractors [as the cyber workload rises]," he said. "But the work is not going away. We have a great workforce -- strong, loyal, dedicated -- and we want to take advantage of that."

CECOM Deputy to the Commanding General Larry Muzzelo outlined CECOM's plans for the sustainment of the future Integrated Tactical Network (ITN). The ITN will employ significant amounts of non-standard and commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, which CECOM will sustain by designating Tobyhanna Army Depot as its central warranty exchange center.

CECOM Integrated Logistics Support Center Director Liz Miranda discussed CECOM work to ensure supply availability, another strategic support area readiness priority. She also outlined CECOM efforts to stabilize the Army's organic industrial base through the use of repair cycle floats (RCFs).

CECOM implemented RCFs last year to ensure there is a replacement supply of high-priority communications systems available to immediately issue to units when systems need repairs. This year, CECOM is revalidating its RCF plans to make sure they represent what the Army actually needs, given constantly changing conditions, Miranda said.

Always Accountable

Throughout the entire briefing, Perna encouraged his commanders and directors to pursue any ethical, moral and legal means to ensure readiness. "I want you to have the freedom to do what you need to do," he said. "Don't get constrained by people's cookie cutter ideas."

He also instructed leaders to work closely with industry partners and hold them accountable if they fell short on their promises. "It's not my job to build America," he said. "It's my job to defend America. If it's readiness focused, I'll underwrite it."