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, or AMC, has reorganized and reshaped to ensure readiness of the Strategic Support Area, where military might is generated, projected and sustained during the fight. As a major subordinate command of AMC, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, is contributing to Strategic Support Area readiness in four focus areas: Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness, Industrial Base Readiness, Strategic Power Projection and Logistics Information Readiness. This article is the first in a series highlighting each priority.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- When he assumed command of AMC in 2016, Gen. Gus Perna gave CECOM leaders a simple, but profound order. Pursue 100% supply availability, he said, and apply any ethical, moral and legal means possible to achieve that critical level of readiness.
Ensuring supply availability for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C5ISR, parts and systems has always been part of CECOM's mission. However, previous supply availability goals were based on the demands of counterinsurgency operations the Army had been focused on for much of the last 18 years.
These sub-100% goals tended to create mental and financial constraints that led to tradeoffs to achieve them, said Tim Luthman, CECOM Integrated Logistics Support Center Supply Cell lead. However, as the Army shifts its focus to Multi-Domain Operations and near-peer adversaries, anything less than 100% supply availability will not meet the Army's needs -- and will put Soldiers' lives at risk.
"Gen. Perna emphasized that we can't be impediments to ourselves," he said. "If you need something, drive toward the need. Don't let someone tell you that you can't."
Driving to 100%
CECOM tapped into that energy and has pursued new tools and strategies to make steady progress. In fiscal year 2017, supply availability was 77%, but it rose to 84% the next year and 90% at the end of fiscal year 2019.
Luthman said new ways of segmenting different populations of readiness-driving and maintenance-significant parts has been critical. For example, because night vision equipment has always played an outsize role in driving supply availability, the command would place greater emphasis on it, sometimes to the detriment of other programs.
"Better segmentation has allowed us to break apart and develop improvements on programs that were getting washed out in the computation," Luthman said.
In addition, CECOM is using a new supply availability projection tool that enables experts to reverse engineer what went wrong when the command failed to meet a target. Using that diagnostic information, it can determine how to implement more effective get-well plans. CECOM is now sharing this tool with other AMC major subordinate commands.
Partnering with Army Contracting Command, the Defense Logistics Agency and the industrial base to build better contract responsiveness and surge capacity has also been key. Strategies include moving to longer-term contracts with multiple vendors, as well as working with vendors to keep supply lines "warm" to avoid costly delays for parts that CECOM only needs intermittently. This engagement has helped CECOM attack its order backlog, which dropped from more than 8,000 in fiscal year 2017 to slightly more than 3,800 in fiscal year 2019.
"We recognize that even though we deal with the nuts and bolts of supply availability, these metrics and numbers translate to life and death on the battlefield," Luthman said. "Soldiers are depending on us to ensure their C5ISR systems -- their 'eyes and ears' -- work as intended, when intended, and that's what pushes us every single day."