Army Materiel Command (AMC), under the direction of Gen. Gustave Perna, has begun the task of consolidating the expansive footprint of civilian employees while minimizing the decrement to military forces in the process. The information provided in this white paper discusses the logic behind the decision, the costs to commanders, and a way to reliably maximize echelon.Increase in Civilian Support PersonnelOver the past 20 years of armed conflict, the Army has increased its operational readiness and lethality, and extended its operational reach, thanks in part to the civilian support structure. These civilian personnel are commonly referred to as Logistics Assistance Representatives, or LARs. The LAR, and the Logistics Assistance Program (LAP), came to Army Sustainment Command (ASC) from AMC headquarters; the AMC mission came from the Department of the Army (DA), G4 (Logistics), mission. Managed by ASC’s LAP Directorate, LARs are civilian contractors serving in motor pools, hangars, maintenance shops, and offices, including those within combat zones. They bring 27 different specialty skills to Army equipment readiness requirements. They are part of ASC’s global network of Army field support brigades and battalions and are linked to every echelon of the Army.The civilian support structure employed by AMC consists of approximately 37,700 military, DA Civilian, and contractor employees, impacting all 50 states and more than 150 countries.The dependency of the Army on the civilian support structure provided by AMC degraded basic sustainment functions and skills that were routinely utilized, trained at garrison institutional locations, and employed by the service member prior to ever reaching out for assistance with sustainment operations. The skills employed by service members have atrophied. The sustainment of equipment listed on a unit’s modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) or table of distribution and allowances (TDA) is managed and accounted for by the commander. The commander relies on a myriad of personnel qualified in a sustainment military occupational specialty (MOS) within their organizations to provide innovative diagnostics and repair of equipment in order to perform their mission(s) and passback support structures such as AMC.The ASC LAR was, and continues to be, utilized as the technical link and reach back to major subordinate commands (MSC), while simultaneously providing invaluable training opportunities to sustainment Soldiers.The anticipated return to garrison operations, coupled with the equipment and personnel drawdown from multiple theaters of operation, has propelled the reduction in LARs from within AMC and MSCs. The start of the reduction in LARs and military sustainment personnel within AMC can be traced back to 2012, with the removal of the brigade logistics support team (BLST) chief under the direction of Gen. Dennis Via, essentially removing the direct military oversight and work assignment for LARS. Certain issues exist regarding these changes.Issue #1: Loss of Sustainment Understanding and TroubleshootingThe military has had to do more with less personnel, money, and resources, but the Department of Defense U.S. proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 would add nearly 26,000 service members across the Active duty force, National Guard, and Reserves. The forecasted growth in personnel forced commanders to increase their training and school funding requests, while also having to complete predeployment and postdeployment training. But without adequate and readily available training programs, and full funding available to a commander, sustainment personnel do not have the training opportunities to increase their knowledge base. Senior leaders throughout the Army frequently remark that combat vehicle maintainers have lost the institutional knowledge and experience that used to be passed from warrant officers to noncommissioned officers to Soldiers. This reliance on outsourcing has broadened the gap in the Army’s institutional knowledge and experience and created a proficiency challenge.U.S. military sustainment personnel have shown a loss of critical skills and capabilities due in part to the overreliance on LARs and similar civilian support personnel. The over reliance on civilian support personnel is due in part to the lowering of standards for entrance into the armed forces during the recruitment process in order to fill units prior to operational deployments and due in part to the various missions that require more personnel to accomplish due to mission creep and increased scope. The diverse mission-sets required personnel that were not only available, based upon their respective rank and MOS, but also for concentration of mass and personnel, removing sustainment MOS personnel from their primary sustainment functions and employing them in duties outside of their trained scope of work. Working outside of their trained sustainment MOSs, sustainers were and continue to be forced to reach out to LARs for the most basic of sustainment issues. Military sustainment personnel utilize LARs 90% of time performing tasks that are inherent to a military sustainment MOS. LARs utilize their time with a unit through finding, expediting, shipping, and managing parts, with the remaining 10% of a LARs time is spent verifying condition codes of equipment, troubleshooting, and maintaining their own training requirements.Sustainment and maintenance skills erosion for US military members can be traced to the short 'downtime' between deployments, typical turnover in personnel through force management requirements, and the increase in garrison workload requirements outside of a sustainment MOS’s respective specialty.Low readiness levels, therefore, typically affect nondeployed forces at their home bases. These forces would deploy if an emergency erupts that the forward-deployed forces cannot handle. The risk is that they would need to deploy before they can be brought up to a high level of readiness. There are a few viable ways forward that would be able to increase the current sustainment and maintenance tactics and techniques, without furthering the decline in actual unit readiness and deployability.Issue #2: Loss or Reallocation of Civilian Support Personnel from Within the Sustainment Warfighting FunctionThe loss of civilian personnel and increase in military personnel is not without precedent for the U.S. armed forces. This has been ongoing for as long as there have been civilian support personnel accompanying military members. The continuous plan of the DoD relationship with civilianization is the story of two opposing forces in an unstable equilibrium; internal pressure to replace military personnel with civilians to save money, and external pressure to reduce civilian staff across the DoD establishment, particularly in times of declining budgets and personnel downsizing.The current loss and reallocation of personnel is attributed to right sizing the force by changing TDAs and MTOEs across the military force. On some installations, the change in TDA and MTOE resulted in a delta of available personnel, whereas other installations had an overage of civilian sustainment personnel. Those areas producing a delta of personnel now had to bring in civilian sustainment personnel in order to fill the shortages.The personnel identified as an overage at one location were offered the opportunity to submit a “wish list” of locations they would be willing to move to at no cost to them. The list the civilian sustainment personnel would submit to AMC helped to craft job placement offers; AMC is still unable to move personnel to locations where there is no delta to fill. In essence, the new positions created by the TDA and MTOE right sizing, did not outweigh the over strength of personnel. A handful of civilian sustainment personnel will inevitably have to look for other employment. The requirement for a more agile, streamlined sustainment program is paramount moving forward and a must for the longevity of the force and the sustainment knowledge base. Through no fault of their own, LARs have been inadvertently supplanting for the military sustainer at all levels.Current Plan of Action: Consolidation of LARs Under a Single UmbrellaLARs are the link between the Soldier/maintainer and the resources of AMC’s lifecycle management commands. In order to increase the proficiency of military sustainment Soldiers and resize the AMC support structure, LARs are realigned under their respective Army field support brigades (AFSB) instead of being embedded with each brigade combat team (BCT) or with each separate unit. The realignment affords ease of access to LARs at a centralized location instead of the LARs being displaced across military installations and large geographic locations. In addition to changes with its MSCs, AMC is continuing to reshape the structure of its headquarters and workforces. Within the headquarters of AMC, redundant positions have been eliminated. Some positions are in the process of being reclassified, shaping the output will help AMC and AFSBs remain relevant. In short, LARs will be brought back under the AFSB umbrella for a single location to request support assistance instead of being embedded with units.Conclusion: Change Is Inevitable and Is Painful if You Fight itThe movement of LARs embedded within operational units has already begun. Perna’s vision of a more agile, streamlined, and elite support structure is moving forward. The consolidation is effective. Sustainment personnel at all levels must now accurately troubleshoot, diagnose and repair their command’s equipment while balancing the limited reachback capabilities provided by seven active component brigades, one Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, one Reserve, and one National Guard (NG) AFSB that are geographically located to provide support. The Reserve and NG field support battalions (AFSBn) perform similar functions to the Active component AFSBns, but their skills are utilized differently due to the inherently different capabilities and mission types the NG and Reserve units perform.A proven way to reduce sustainment costs is by applying commercial best practices to defense acquisition and sustainment. A civilian business model utilized when it comes to managing the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of major weapons systems and platforms is performance-based logistics (PBL). Unlike traditional fee-for-service or time-and-materials contracts, PBL works by specifying outcomes, not activities.The consolidation of LARs back under the AFSB is a throwback to how AFSBs and AFSBns were originally utilized.The consolidation of LARs does not mean they will no longer assist as needed; instead, LARs will teach and coach as needed on a case-by-case basis. Units and sustainment personnel will not be left out or unassisted after training is done, instead, continual follow-up contact will be done until assistance is no longer needed. LARs will no longer spend 90% of their time performing tasks that are to be done at the lowest level by trained sustainment military personnel.The basics of troubleshooting, diagnosing, and repairing must be at the forefront of sustainment operations. The bloat of civilian sustainment personnel is shrinking. The end state will show a loss of LARs at the BCT and unit level, a reliance on the sustainment personnel assigned to a unit based upon the MTOE or TDA and commanders at all levels having to invest in their Soldiers. Commanders will have to balance training requirements set forth by higher command echelons and the sustainment of their assigned equipment and personnel.The consolidation of LARs is inevitable. Using PBLs, a sergeant’s time training, filling all available Army Training Requirements and Resource System sustainment school seats, and getting back to the basics will slowly realign the sustainment knowledge base that has been lost over the better part of 20 years of armed conflict and overreliance on civilian support personnel. Additionally, with the implementation of the Unit Diagnostic Immersion Program (UDIP), a concerted effort between the Ordnance Center and School and U.S. Forces Command, the DoD is leveraging the National Guard Sustainment Training Centers (NGB STCs). The NGB STC’s intent is to provide maintainers with the knowledge needed to rapidly diagnose problems and provide cost-effective solutions. Coupling the NGB STC training platform with PBLs, unit training, and external training sources, units will slowly start to get back on track and be self-sufficient.--------------------Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon LaMothe serves as senior ordnance logistics officer within the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne). LaMothe is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies and Indiana Wesleyan School of Business. He has completed the Support Operations Course (Phase I and Phase II) and all phases of the warrant officer professional military education.--------------------This article was published in the April-June 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.RELATED LINKSArmy Sustainment homepageThe Current issue of Army Sustainment in pdf formatCurrent Army Sustainment Online ArticlesConnect with Army Sustainment on LinkedInConnect with Army Sustainment on Facebook