Ordnance SealArmy Maintenance Transformation 

by Major General Mitchell H. Stevenson

The Chief of Ordnance discusses a key facet of Army Transformation:  the institution of a two-level maintenance system to replace today's four levels.

    The Army recently held its annual Army Transformation War Game—the largest ever. The timeframe of the war game was 2019 to 2021, and the scenario found U.S. forces engaged in a series of hostile actions within the homeland and spanning the globe. The purpose of the war game, dubbed "Vigilant Warrior," was to examine the implications of multiple, nearly simultaneous operations, ranging from major combat operations (with multiple division-sized forces engaged) to smaller scale contingencies and homeland defense.

    As war games always do, this one provided a large number of insights into the characteristics required of the Objective Force. Once again, we validated that the Army of the future must be able to operate with a much smaller logistics footprint than it does today. Fundamental to being able to achieve a smaller logistics footprint, of course, is a major reduction in demand for logistics through advances like significantly improved reliability of our equipment and more fuel efficient vehicles. But we also can improve on how we are structured to do logistics, and in particular on how we do maintenance on the battlefield of the 21st century.

    The Army currently uses a four-level maintenance system (above the operator or crew level) for ground materiel. The four levels are—

    This four-level maintenance system is characterized by the simplest maintenance tasks being performed at the lowest echelon; when a task is beyond the resources of a given echelon (because of such factors as time, tools, and test equipment), the item requiring maintenance is evacuated to a higher level. This system was created just before World War II and has served us well for over 50 years. However, because capabilities exist only at certain echelons, each echelon (through GS) must be deployed to have the full range of capabilities in an area of operations. This echeloned system of maintenance—

    Army Transformation will require us to be able to deploy powerful forces quickly without a large logistics footprint. The operating environment of the future also likely will be a noncontiguous area of operations and will have long and often unsecured lines of communication. An echeloned maintenance system that relies on evacuation between echelons will have a larger than necessary logistics footprint, will be inefficient, and will take longer than necessary to repair equipment. Our current four-level system will not work.

    So our vision is of a two-level maintenance system that essentially will combine the unit and DS levels of maintenance (and be called "field maintenance") and combine the GS and depot levels (and be called "sustainment maintenance"). Field maintenance will be characterized by "on-system maintenance," and sustainment maintenance will be "off-system maintenance." Field maintenance will be repair and return to user; sustainment maintenance will be repair and return to supply.

    We actually have been evolving to a two-level maintenance system since the Force XXI concepts began emerging in the mid-1990s. Many actions already have been taken, and many more are planned, that will get us to a two-level maintenance system with the necessary reduction in our maintenance footprint in the area of operations. For example, as part of the Force XXI design, organizational-level and DS-level maintainers from the mechanized infantry, armor, and engineer battalions were combined into a single unit, called the forward support company. In other words, the Force XXI division already features a merging of organizational-level maintenance and DS-level maintenance into a single unit.

    Following in this same manner, in the design of the interim brigade combat team (IBCT), all IBCT
organizational-level and DS-level maintenance personnel are combined into the brigade support battalion's forward maintenance company. Objective Force maintenance will be structured similarly.

    The creation of the M1 Abrams tank and M2/3 Bradley fighting vehicle multicapable maintainer (MCM) 2 years ago moved what had been simple "on-system" tasks performed at the DS level of maintenance to
the MCM's echelon. (The MCM's tasks combine organizational-level turret and hull repair with some selected on-system DS tasks.) Following this same model, we plan to create an M109A6 Paladin 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzer MCM by 1 October 2004 that similarly will combine organizational-level maintenance tasks with selected on-system DS tasks.

    A proposal has been submitted, for implementation on 1 October 2004, that will merge the organizational- level tracked vehicle maintainer (military occupational specialty [MOS] 63Y) and DS-level tracked vehicle maintainer (MOS 63H) for all tracked vehicles other than the Abrams, Bradley, and Paladin into a single tracked vehicle mechanic capable of performing what we know today as organizational and DS maintenance. Similarly, a proposal has been submitted that will merge all organizational-level wheeled vehicle maintainers (MOSs 63B and 63S) and DS-level wheeled vehicle maintainers (MOS 63W) into a single wheeled vehicle mechanic.

    Course design work for these MOSs is complete. Increases in course lengths have been offset by reductions made in other courses—there will be no trainees, transients, holdees, and students (TTHS) bill for this merger. Force structure and design work is going on now with the Army Force Management Support Agency.

    Our most complex weapon systems are becoming more and more modular, with simple-to-replace components and line replaceable units (LRUs) that have built-in test and built-in test equipment (BIT/BITE). This is exactly what we should be doing. It complements the move to a two-level maintenance system, which features on-system work at the field level of maintenance and off-system, inside-the-box repair of components and LRUs at the sustainment level of maintenance.

    In a force design update approved last year, we set the stage for reorganizing our GS maintenance companies (all but four general support units [GSUs] are in the Reserve components) into "component repair companies." These units will be our deployable, inside-the-box component repair capability and will work at the direction of the Army Materiel Command's (AMC's) National Maintenance Program manager (in the same way that GSUs work today through the Army National Guard's National Maintenance Training Center at Camp Dodge, Iowa). In fact, AMC's assumption of responsibility for managing all component repairs done at the installation and depot level fits in very nicely with a "sustainment level" of maintenance.

    An integrated concept team has been formed with representation from the Army Training and Doctrine Command; Headquarters, Department of the Army; the program managers; and the major Army commands. This team will lay out an implementation strategy and ensure that we have accounted for the resource implications that could put a two-level maintenance system into place as early as fiscal year 2006. Much work remains to be done, but our work to date informs us that movement to a two-level maintenance system is feasible, not only for the Interim and Objective Forces but also for legacy forces, and that a two-level system will support Army Transformation better than a four-level system would.

In summary, the advantages of a two-level maintenance system are—

    A simpler, two-level maintenance system is the right way to go for the future. It will yield the more efficient, rapid maintenance response that the Army of the 21st century requires. ALOG

    Major General Mitchell H. Stevenson is Chief of Ordnance, commanding general of the Army
Ordnance Center and Schools, and deputy commanding general of the Army Combined Arms Support Command. He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College. He has a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University and an M.S. degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology.