How to Lose a Million Pounds in Two Weeks
A Department of the Army coordinated campaign to remove excess property by integrating strategic partners would result in measurable readiness gains for the Army and improve the service’s capability to rapidly deploy.
From March 27 to April 7, the 1st Cavalry Division and nine separate brigades at Fort Hood, Texas, freed their motor pools of over 750,000 pounds of scrap metal, electronic waste and antiquated communications gear. Another 250,000 pounds of serviceable secondary items, such as repair parts valued at over $30 million, were collected for return to national level accountability.
The 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command developed streamlined turn-in procedures and utilized the strengths of many strategic partners to save at least 12,225 person-hours—equating to at least $1.1 million in labor costs—by eliminating paperwork generation and inspection time compared to supply support activity turn-ins. The lean turn-in procedure enabled more lines or unique parts, regardless of quantity, to be processed in two weeks as opposed to six months of the U.S. Army Forces Command’s supply support activities excess turn-ins.
It was our own version of a surge.
Make It Easy
Operational planning focused on minimizing the number of person-hours soldiers spend preparing and inspecting paperwork. The leaner processes eliminated a paperwork requirement for approximately 90 percent of a unit’s excess, resulting in readiness gains at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of the Army.
The priority of excess distribution was as follows: Sierra Army Depot, Calif., received serviceable repair parts without paperwork. The installation’s qualified recycling program received unserviceable metal items that did not require demilitarization. The landfill received items the recycling center refused and then DD Form 1348-1As (turn-in documents) were prepared to transfer remaining equipment to Defense Logistics Agency’s Disposition Services. Sierra Army Depot and the III Corps property assistance team provided expert assistance identifying and preparing turn-in documents, which decreased errors and enabled soldiers to spend less time frustrated by paperwork.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Karen Parsons of the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, led a team of three to 10 soldiers that disposed of a 20-foot container and a triple storage container’s worth of materials over the course of three days. “We didn’t have to do any paperwork on some of the items, which made it so much easier,” Parsons said. “It is a bit of a process to be able to turn it into the supply support activity and would take more manpower.”
Get Strategic Partners
“We wish it was always this easy to do the right thing” was a common theme provided in after-action review comments. Strategic partners take the overwhelming tasks of divesting iron mountains of accumulated gear and make them manageable. They have years of experience identifying, retrograding and disposing of equipment, which eliminates a steep learning curve for soldiers and saves precious time.
The Army Enterprise’s stressed supply system benefited because serviceable parts were added to national level accountability and were made available for worldwide distribution without having to be purchased again from a vendor.
Sierra Army Depot “offers a unique capability to receive, identify, classify, bring to an accountable record, store, manage and rapidly ship assets worldwide. These reclamation activities clearly provide a readiness and operational value to the Army and the nation through management and controlled redistribution to meet urgent demands,” according to the depot’s mission.
The depot provided a team of six material examiners and identifiers that received 208,000 pounds of serviceable repair parts in just nine days. By not requiring paperwork, Sierra saved units at least 7,275 person-hours or at least $642,000 in labor costs.
Sierra enabled one company to empty two 20-foot containers and shed 2,376 serviceable lines over the course of a week. Their technical supply officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mathew McMillan, said, “For a year, I’ve recognized that my tech supply section has a problem with excess, but it’s so hard to find the time to do the right thing and turn it in. Our No. 1 priority is putting parts in the hands of mechanics to repair aircraft and get them back in the air. After that, we balance recoverable turn-ins and all the other mission or training requirements, so serviceable excess often takes a back seat. It’s a huge relief to not have to inventory those lines again and sort through them as we prepare to deploy to Europe.”
Items received and redistributed by Sierra Army Depot result in an Army Working Capital Fund surplus.
According to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), “Disposition Services disposes of excess property received from the military services. The inventory changes daily and includes thousands of items: from air conditioners to vehicles, clothing to computers, and much more. That property is first offered for reutilization within DoD, transfer to other federal agencies, or donation to state and local governments and other qualified organizations.
“Certain property is demilitarized (i.e., rendered useless for its originally intended purpose). Surplus property with inherent military characteristics must undergo ‘demil.’ ”
During the surge event, all unserviceable property requiring demilitarization and serviceable property Sierra Army Depot did not claim was turned in to Disposition Services using a turn-in document. Supply personnel were encouraged to use DLA’s automated generating capability known as electronic turn-in documents, which significantly reduced the amount of time required to generate and inspect turn-in paperwork.
Qualified Recycling Partners
Fort Hood’s qualified recycling program and DLA Disposition Services partnered during Fort Hood’s surge event to collect over 250,000 pounds of scrap and save units at least 4,500 person-hours in documentation prep time.
Before the surge, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command worked with Forces Command and DLA Disposition Services headquarters to clarify what constituted eligible material and bust the well-established myth that recycling centers cannot accept tan or olive-drab green military equipment. The myth had been codified in local standard operating procedures and resulted in units wasting time preparing paperwork. The critical criteria for an item to be eligible for qualified recycling: It must be from an operations and maintenance unit, unserviceable, nonrepairable and not require demilitarization.
Since soldiers and the Fort Hood recycling center were unfamiliar with demilitarization codes, the surge event placed DLA service representatives at the qualified recycling program collection site to ensure all regulations were followed. “By doing this process, it saves the Army time on unserviceable property and is a win-win for everybody,” said Andre Robinson, property disposal supervisor for the McAlester (Okla.) Army Ammunition Plant.
In addition to saving $374,000 in unit labor costs, the event generated $22,583 for Fort Hood’s Morale, Recreation and Welfare program because “DoD regulations allow the services to directly sell [qualified recycling program] material without assistance from DLA and retain the proceeds at the installation level,” a May 31 DLA memo confirms. If the installation recycling center cannot reutilize the raw material, then it can direct the equipment to be disposed of in the installation landfill. Installation standard operation procedures will dictate if units are given landfill passes or use collection containers.
Exercise That Skill Set
“Turning in excess is a skill set that has to be exercised,” said Robert Bishop, director of Fort Hood’s Logistics Readiness Center. During Fort Hood’s surge event, the installation’s property accountability team provided soldiers with critical one-on-one training and assisted soldiers by quickly generating turn-in documentation.
Restoring national level accountability of secondary items while simultaneously removing the burden of excess placed on soldiers is a win-win for the Army enterprise. To achieve the maximum amount of readiness, the following is recommended:
- Life cycle management commands grant serviceable credit for long lead-time parts identified and returned to the Army Working Capital Fund during a clean sweep. These commands must provide material managers with a list of parts that can make an immediate readiness impact. Also, life cycle management commands can identify parts they want divested so units can turn them into DLA Disposition Services instead of creating waste in the supply system.
- Applicable regulations need to clearly state that unserviceable items slated for demilitarization are eligible for receipt by an installation’s qualified recycling program. Over 4,500 person-hours were saved because the recycling program accepted tan and olive-drab green material without paperwork after applicable regulations were clarified.
- Fort Hood’s qualified recycling program is more advanced than most and utilizes direct-sales contracts to return revenue to the installation’s Morale, Recreation and Welfare account. It is recommended that every installation create direct-sales contracts, especially considering DLA’s recent decision to suspend “reimbursements for [qualified recycling program] material at the local installation level” pending an audit.
- Visits from Sierra Army Depot are coordinated three to six months after a unit returns from a deployment or after a major fielding, which enables units to “lighten their rucksack” before assuming another mission.