Modern supply chain resilience warrants fresh approaches

By Christopher SurridgeMarch 7, 2024

Forum to focus on Army Sustainment
M-ATV Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles are staged for issue at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 remote lot, June 27, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The vehicles are part of APS-5's ABCT equipment set. APS-5 is managed and maintained by the 401st Army Field Support Brigade. This equipment draw of APS-5's newly configured for combat ABCT marks the largest ever draw from APS-5. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Justin Graff) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — As part of Defense Acquisition University’s annual update to the acquisition workforce, Army Materiel Command’s Acting Deputy G-3 and Director of Supply Chain Management Rich Martin participated in a panel discussion Feb. 22 on the Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Strategy to build ready and resilient supply chains.

Appearing virtually from the DAU regional campus located on Redstone Arsenal, Martin explained how the National Defense Industrial Strategy works in tandem with the Army’s Organic Industrial Base Modernization Implementation Plan to address present and potential challenges to the Defense Industrial Base and encourages a multifaceted approach to ensure a dynamic, responsive, resilient and deterrent industrial ecosystem.

“What I like about this document is it challenges some of our fundamental assumptions and highlights some of the things that we're facing as a nation that we’ve really got to wrestle with,” Martin said.

Longstanding assumptions regarding supply chain resilience once reliant upon just-in-time management strategies, which prioritizes low stockpiling and needs-based supply flow, were shattered in recent crises including COVID-19, the 2021 Suez Canal obstruction and ongoing global conflicts.

“We cannot assume that the sea lanes or the air lanes are unimpeded, as we once may have believed they were,” Martin said.

The panel also featured Danielle Miller, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial base resilience, and Kevin Sampels, vice chairman for National Defense Industrial Association logistics management division, and focused on data analytics, OIB modernization, supply availability and foreign military sales in relation to the NDIS.

The panel advanced the critical importance of prioritizing sub-tier, or indirectly contracted, supply visibility and emphasized recent efforts to leverage data analytics to better understand and facilitate the adequate production of necessary products, services and technologies to meet national defense needs. More than simply compiling data sourced from the OIB and external commercial partners, however, Martin prescribes integrating data analytics to better gauge and anticipate supply chain gaps and proactively mitigate disruptions end-to-end and get ahead of need.

“Data is almost a new gold in some cases,” Martin said. “We have to use the data to think differently, and make different, more informed and timely decisions.”

Proficient and timely data analysis is central to the Army’s plan to modernize its 23 arsenals, depots and ammunition plants that manufacture, reset and maintain Army equipment. This ongoing 15-year, Army-lead effort will more closely align the OIB to the complementary, commercial DIB, and thus minimize acquisition cycle times, elevate depot efficiency and increase surge capacity.

Martin further explained that data acquisition, analysis and visioning enables commanders to have a near-real-time understanding as to the readiness of Army Prepositioned Stocks around the globe, allowing for more informed decisions and rapid power projection in a contested logistics environment.

An improved holistic awareness of APS and enhanced nuance to supply gaps in the OIB, according to Martin, helps to diminish lead time for commercial industry suppliers to remedy and redress anticipated materiel failures and gaps. The resultant increase in product lifecycle predictability additionally offers the Army a better understanding of the overall defense industrial capacity throughout future acquisition cycles, which incentivizes a more robust collaboration with private sector suppliers and expanded opportunities to engage in Foreign Military Sales.

“Our international partners want to be part of our production capacity,” Martin said. “If we're now interdependent, we are interoperable, which only makes us stronger.”

Better acquisition lead time and expanded supply capacity accelerates the Army’s ability to facilitate the sale and transfer of excess equipment and ordnance. As future FMS opportunities continue to develop, the Army attains more nuance as to allied and partner defense technology priorities, needs and capabilities, which can then be relayed back to commercial and public suppliers and further incorporated to expand and engage the OIB and larger Defense Industrial Base.

“We never want to fight a home game. We never want a fair fight,” Martin said. “If we look at those two premises, then it makes our organic industrial base stronger because more of our partners are reliant and are asking for more of our equipment because it's good, it lasts and it's reliable.”