FORT DETRICK, Md. -- When working on highly complex medical devices, the repair bills for new parts can rack up quickly.
Parts for computed tomography or portable X-ray machines, for example, can soar past $25,000, which U.S. Army regulations state require additional oversight at the command level for purchasing.
It’s a common occurrence for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency’s medical maintenance teams across the country, including at the agency’s Medical Maintenance Operations Division at Tracy, California, or MMOD-Tracy.
“For us specifically at Tracy, we often saw that problem with the $25,000 threshold because of a lot of the parts for imaging machines that we specialize in put us over that limit,” MMOD-Tracy Chief of Operations Ian McNesby said. “It was definitely a problem for us.”
To simplify and streamline the process, leaders at USAMMA’s Medical Maintenance Management Directorate, or M3D, created the Maintenance Procurement Office, or MPO, in 2016.
The MPO, made up of 13 civilian and contractor personnel, centralizes the ordering practices for repair parts and services that support all three of USAMMA’s MMODs across the U.S., as well as different medical materiel supplies located at Army Prepositioned Stocks sites around the globe.
The team functions largely behind the scenes and maintains constant contact with leaders at each of the MMODs as they work together to provide valuable sustainment-level maintenance support to operational Army units.
“We are one of those teams in the background,” said Newt Oliphant, one of the MPO team leads. “But we do matter and the warfighter is better able to perform their duties and survive because of what we do.”
M3D Director Jorge Magana likened the MPO’s role to one leg of a three-legged stool, providing resources in the form of medical materiel, Class VIII repair parts and supplies to execute the directorate’s mission.
“The MPO’s work is important as it consolidates, tracks and manages efforts for the entire directorate,” Magana said. “They support the entire maintenance program, which includes the three MMODs, the Medical Materiel Readiness Program and all three APS sites.
“That is a global presence in supporting medical device readiness.”
USAMMA is a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, the Army’s Life Cycle Management Command for medical materiel.
The MPO, functioning under M3D, supports the agency’s overall mission to deliver medical materiel readiness, synchronizing and integrating strategic sustainment, supply support and maintenance capabilities to enable global health care operations.
Comprised of supply management officers and specialists, equipment specialists and contract administrative support specialists, the team executes purchase orders, bulk purchasing agreements and other procurements through prime vendors and various contracts.
“Without the MPO executing their function, both its assigned tasks and those as needed without additional resources, AMLC, USAMMA and M3D would cease to operate as a whole, and thus, the entire operational force would suffer,” said Jesus Tulud, a retired chief warrant officer five and current M3D contract employee.
Since its creation, the MPO has continued to evolve to better meet the medical maintenance needs of the operating force.
Prior to 2016, MPO functions were essentially split between the MMODs and USAMMA’s contract management section, which “was not medical maintenance-friendly,” Oliphant explained, often resulting in longer wait times.
Among several other responsibilities, the contract office would step in to handle larger purchases, with the smaller procurement operations happening at the MMOD level directly.
“The ability to purchase the vast array of repair parts needed was restrictive and difficult to execute,” Oliphant said.
“We could buy stuff that we needed, but only if it didn’t exceed $25,000,” McNesby said of past operations. “Now, each of the MMODs typically have the attention of at least one of the purchasing agents at headquarters who are there to support our needs. They’ve done a great job.”
Oliphant said M3D saw tremendous improvements in efficiency and turnaround times following the creation of the MPO. Revisions to regulations also made it easier to purchase repair parts to keep the MMODs stocked as needed to meet operational schedules and lessen wait times, promoting high levels of readiness for medical units that rely on their services.
Additionally, the MPO works to improve and maintain vendor relationships, as well as perform a host of administrative tasks, including processing security requirements for contractors, database management, training tracking and customer support.
In short, the office is dedicated to and promotes the medical materiel readiness mission.
“They’re definitely important for not just our operation, but for the warfighter as well,” McNesby said. “They are an integral part of M3D.”