By Gen. Gustave "Gus" PernaSeptember 30, 2019
For the past four years, modernization has been a priority for Army senior leaders. They codified it with the largest reorganization of the Army's structure in more than two decades, standing up Army Futures Command. But the responsibility to modernize does not lie with Army Futures Command alone. As sustainers, we have a critical role in modernizing everything from our installations to our skillsets to keep pace with the developments of AFC's Cross Functional Teams (CFTs). In fact, if we fail to modernize what is our responsibility, the best efforts of Army Futures Command will be for naught.
This starts by ensuring logisticians are fully embedded within every modernization effort and initiative, advocating for innovative ideas that drive supply chain and sustainment efficiencies in next-generation weapon systems. We must be in lockstep with the CFTs on planned improvements and upgrades to equipment, and understanding the training, logistics, and sustainment requirements up front.
Once we understand the requirements, we must look forward and modernize the infrastructure on our installations. An improved, long-range automatic rifle is only as good as the Soldier firing it; the Next Generation Combat Vehicle is only as effective as the Soldiers who operate it. To be effective, Soldiers must train on the equipment, and that training is done on installations. Ranges must be prepared for weapon systems that shoot farther and drive faster. Likewise, motorpools and installation maintenance facilities must provide the right capability to enable Soldiers to maintain equipment. Our ranges, facilities and centers must be modernized to train and maintain as new platforms are developed and fielded.
Equally important as training is projecting our forces and equipment forward. We must be able to get our equipment to the fight--rapidly and efficiently. Our Strategic Power Projection capabilities--railheads, ports, airfields, shipping containers, and more--must also be modernized to support next-generation platforms. From weight to size, and from ease of mobility to cyber, we must consider the factors that impact our ability to move, and modernize accordingly, now.
Within the industrial base, modernization is key to sustaining our future systems. Most of the 26 maintenance depots, manufacturing arsenals, and ammunition plants within the Army's organic industrial base are WWII-era facilities. They were established to maintain the Army's equipment more than 75 years ago. While many have gone through incremental upgrades, they must be modernized with the right machinery and tooling to manufacture, reset and repair the weapon systems of the future. Our industrial base, particularly the munitions industrial base, must also have the modernized storage capacity to support future requirements.
Finally, we must modernize our logistics information--our data, processes, and systems that allow us to see ourselves. While we have made great strides, we are still operating in the industrial age, working in inefficient processes with duplicative systems. The amount and quality of data available to commanders is indescribable, but without the ability to harness and leverage that data, it lacks purpose. We also cannot underestimate the cyber abilities of our enemies. We must streamline and modernize our systems to safeguard and protect our data and to better understand the resident capabilities within them to make informed business decisions.
The bottom line is that our profession has a colossal and critical responsibility to modernize alongside our partners in Army Futures Command. We have long said that our strategic advantage is our projection and logistics capabilities. We can have the best, most advanced equipment in the world, but without the infrastructure to train on it and project it forward, that advantage is lost. We must get this right--today--for the future.
Gen. Gustave "Gus" Perna is the commander of the Army Materiel Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
This article was published in the October-December 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.