Army Logistics: Plan for New Missions in a Complex World

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Army’s top logistician warned March 19 that budget woes are hurting readiness – and things could get worse.

“We are doing everything we can to create and maintain readiness, despite simultaneous operations around the world … shrinking budgets, and the potential of sequestration,” said Lt. Gen. Gustave F. Perna, deputy chief of staff, G-4, speaking at an AUSA Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in Arlington, Va.

“We are designed to bring capability to bad places, defeat our enemy, and protect our well-being here in the United States,” Perna said.

That mission could be at risk.  With sequestration in effect, the Army will not be able to effectively meet those requirements.

Sequestration “will put more soldiers in harm’s way,” Perna said.

“If sequestration takes full effect,” he added, the Army “will not be able to train logisticians to execute expeditionary logistics.  We will not be able to improve force projection and force perception” and that will be a hindrance on the battlefield.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Perna said, “We relied heavily on contractors to do the maintenance and supply accountability for us.”  This took unit leaders and soldiers out of the equation.

“Essentially, we separated ourselves from the readiness tasks of running the Army day to day,” he said.

In some cases, Perna said, this caused adjusting or lowering of readiness standards and maintenance expectations, and “the Army cannot afford that approach anymore” from a financial or requirements standpoint.

Accordingly, this trend is changing. “My goal inside our organization, and for logisticians across the Army, is that we have 100 percent of our people doing 100 percent of the work,” said Perna.

The Army is “increasing its presence and capability” in Europe, Kuwait, South Korea, Africa, Iraq, and others, Perna said.

“So what do all these new missions mean?  It means we cannot predict what specific units have to be ready, or what they have to be able to do,” he said.  “We have to be ready to execute on the president’s demand.”

One major difficulty is “the Army must become expeditionary again,” Perna said.

“This is going to be a significant challenge, especially when you consider that many of our logistics skills have atrophied over the last 13 years.”

In order to execute the “Globally Responsive and Regionally Engaged”  vision of the secretary and chief of staff of the Army, Perna said, “We need to ensure expeditionary force projection, force perception, and onward movement.”  The Army is not properly trained to execute these three critical tasks, he added.

Inside the G-4, Perna said he has focused on three lines of effort: leadership development, readiness (tactical, operational, and strategic), and supporting the Army Operating Concept for Force 2025.

“I tell my staff all the time, if they’re not working on something related to leadership development, readiness, or improving the force for 2025 – don’t do it.  Don’t go to that meeting.  I’ll take the heat,” Perna said.

Regarding leadership development, “the chief of staff of the Army has recently directed that we will realign sustainment brigades underneath division headquarters,” Perna said.  “This will strengthen our home station relationships, allowing us to define and manage logistics talents on a broader scale.”

When Army units need to deploy on short notice, logistics personnel must support large formations in austere environments. 

“We [Army logisticians] need to relearn how to do operational logistics on the battlefield – like how to refuel an armored brigade on the move,” Perna said, calling such skill sets “a lost art.”

In the readiness line of effort, the G-4 is fielding a new information system, the “Global Combat Support System – Army,” Perna said.  This system, he added, “will be a game-changer for how we execute logistics on the battlefield” by allowing the entire Army to impact and pursue solutions for soldiers on the ground and senior leaders at the strategic level.

Future Global Combat Support System – Army increments will include aviation maintenance and ammunition management, Perna said.

In support of the Army Operating Concept, the G-4 “is applying innovation and technology” to anticipate future requirements.  One example, Perna said, is condition-based maintenance, or CBM. 

“We have already seen significant savings, millions of dollars, in executing preventative maintenance versus reactive maintenance,” he added.

“Influencing the preparation and actions of 240,000 Army logisticians is a daunting task for anyone,” Perna said. “But I have confidence in the leaders, the NCOs, and the soldiers of this great organization to accomplish the mission.”