By Jacob Kriss, CECOM Public AffairsOctober 9, 2019
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 second in a series highlighting each priority.
Tobyhanna, Pa. -- There's an energy in the air at the Tobyhanna Army Depot. You can feel it as you walk through expansive buildings, where teams of electronics and logistics artisans overhaul, fabricate and engineer complex hardware, from satellite terminals to radar platforms. Move into recently converted cyber labs, and you'll sense it as software experts forge patches to protect networked systems from the latest threats.
As CECOM's organic industrial depot, Tobyhanna has long excelled at its core mission: providing unmatched command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C5ISR, system readiness across the joint forces. But with AMC's renewed focus on the Strategic Support Area and with an Army-wide mandate to reform and modernize, today Tobyhanna is transforming its operations as it strives to deliver the best value for the warfighter.
Growing the Right Way
Located in the Pocono Mountains, the depot is the largest industrial employer in northeast Pennsylvania, with more than 4,000 employees. And that base is growing. In fiscal year 2019, Tobyhanna hired approximately 500 new employees to keep up with its workload, which rose 35%. That's its largest year-over-year increase in more than a decade.
The growth is attributable in part to the Army's focus on equipment readiness as a priority. It's also due to growing awareness and dependence on Tobyhanna expertise across the joint forces. In fact, Tobyhanna's Performance to Promise, a measure of the depot's ability to deliver services on time, grew from 49% in fiscal year 2015 to 97% in fiscal year 2019.
"Our customers have a choice of where to go for C5ISR sustainment, whether it's Tobyhanna, other Department of Defense organizations or private industry," said Nick Caprioli, deputy director, Production Management Directorate. "We've shown them time and again that Tobyhanna is the best value, and that's why they keep coming back."
Getting to 2028
Tobyhanna delivers that value via its Toby 2028 strategic plan, guided by four key initiatives: C5ISR Readiness, Shape the Future, Invest in Our People and Strategic Communications.
Improved sales and operations planning is a key part of C5ISR readiness. This approach, initiated in 2018, helps the depot better forecast its workload by formalizing processes and ensuring communication with customers and stakeholders early in the planning cycle.
The Army has also invested millions in Tobyhanna's physical infrastructure to prepare for the future. In 2018, the depot cut the ribbon on an updated, state-of-the-art electronic maintenance enclosure. In addition, five depot maintenance forward facilities, two abroad and three in the U.S., were launched to reduce repair turnaround times and bring repair capability services closer to where units are stationed.
"The key for us is flexibility and the ability to quickly transition spaces depending on evolving requirements," said Herb Shirey, director, Installation Service Directorate.
For example, he noted that several years ago, cybersecurity was not a significant part of Tobyhanna's mission. Beginning in 2015, the depot began a pilot project for information assurance vulnerability alert software patching on tactical systems. The pilot project then expanded to include a Cyber Knowledge Center, which provides warfighter reach-back support and technical assistance.
Today the initiative incorporates a team of more than 50 experts creating patches, security protocols and automated software tests. While Tobyhanna's mission has traditionally been hardware, software is driving more functionality as technology advances, so the two fields are increasingly integrating. As such, the depot anticipates continuing to ramp up its hardware and software integration and cyber capabilities.
The Power of People
Investing in people and empowering an agile workforce with 21st century skills has been critical to that transition. Those efforts include providing Project Management Professional and Certified in Production and Inventory Management certifications; training supervisors on sales and operations planning and other fields; focusing on human factors to improve the work environment, like natural lighting and temperature controls; and much more.
These reforms are designed to support a workforce that the Army will need to surge in case of a return to large-scale combat operations. Accordingly, Tobyhanna is keen on asking the right "what if" questions and aligning its work plans to ensure it is prepared for any contingency.
"It's our innovation and ability to think outside the box that has allowed us to grow our capability," said Robert Katulka, director, Production Engineering Directorate. "The feedback we get is that our people are doing exciting things, and they see themselves having an impact and making a real difference for our warfighters."