Optimizing Supply Chain Critical to Modernization

Optimizing Supply Chain Critical to Modernization

RFAB printer facility
Photo by: U.S. Army/Spc. Adeline Witherspoon

The COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain disruptions that followed have sharpened the Army’s focus on making sure soldiers have what they need on the battlefield, a senior leader said.

“The pandemic hit at a point in our Army history where we’ve embarked on the biggest modernization effort since World War II,” said Lt. Gen. Duane Gamble, deputy Army chief of staff for logistics. 

While the Army was already incorporating artificial intelligence and business analytics into its modernization effort, the pandemic reinforced the need for more robust supplies and advanced manufacturing, Gamble said during a virtual event hosted by the Hudson Institute. 

“What we’re doing for our new systems is deliberately designing them for increased commonality, increased use of advanced manufacturing, in order to reduce demand on the supply chain,” Gamble said. “It doesn’t fix the supply chain, but it optimizes the supply chain that’s available.”

The Army also is working to ensure its systems remain resilient in austere conditions, he said.

Gamble visited Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, during the Army’s Project Convergence 21 exercise late last year. 

“Dead center in the middle of that is sustainment,” he said about the six-week event to test and experiment with new, emerging technologies. 

“We’re deliberately training and experimenting in degraded environments and denied environments and then requiring our systems to continue operating in either a network-denied environment or a GPS-denied environment,” he said.

On the future battlefield, the Army must be efficient and effective, Gamble said. This includes employing technology such as advanced manufacturing to produce things “at the point of need,” he said.

Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technologies to create new or improved products or processes, according to the Army. It includes additive manufacturing or 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence and composite materials.

For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working with the Army on “some interesting efforts” to produce water, Gamble said. There also is work being done, including efforts with industry, on energy.

“In many cases, it’s not how do we produce it or how do we procure more or how do we assure the supply chain,” Gamble said. “It’s how do we use advanced manufacturing to produce it on the battlefield?”