CECOM asset management keeping ready C5ISR systems in Soldiers’ hands | Article

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. — For Army units in the field, Soldiers’ lives and mission success depend on command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems that function as intended, when intended. These critical C5ISR platforms are Soldiers’ eyes and ears, enabling them to execute the two other core battlefield functions: shooting and moving.Sustaining C5ISR assets — ensuring they are constantly ready, available and functional — is the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command’s core responsibility. Today, in response to dramatic new demands for Army readiness, CECOM is implementing a revolutionary reconfiguration of its C5ISR support processes, known as asset management.“Using asset management, CECOM is proactively working with units to plan how we repair and replace systems that most need attention, before they break down, based on each unit’s specific needs,” said CECOM Chief of Sustainment Maintenance Operations Joe Scheff. The ultimate goal is to ensure that units have ready C5ISR assets 100% of the time.SRM versus ARFORGENAsset management was born out of the Army’s adoption of the Sustainable Readiness Model in 2017. As the Army reformed and modernized to deter aggression from near-peer adversaries, it implemented SRM to ensure there were always ready units available to meet combatant commander demands.Under the previous Army Force Generation model, all of a unit’s C5ISR equipment would automatically be sent for sustainment-level maintenance, regardless of condition, when the unit returned from deployment or trainings. ARFORGEN worked well for predictable combat cycles in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this approach could not meet the demands of SRM, which reduced generous six-month equipment reset periods down to just 90 days. CECOM needed a new approach.The 'easy button'CECOM began implementing asset management in fiscal year 2019. The process begins with the C5ISR Life Cycle Analysis Team (CLAT), composed of technical experts from the CECOM Integrated Logistics Support Center and Tobyhanna Army Depot, CECOM’s C5ISR repair and overhaul facility in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. Eighteen months before CECOM takes possession of, or “inducts,” any C5ISR system for repair, the CLAT visits units to assess the condition of the units’ C5ISR assets. The CLAT then assigns each system a category based on its condition, with Category 4 and 5 most urgently needing depot maintenance. This gives the team a picture of the overall C5ISR readiness of the unit.After assessing the systems, CECOM begins planning for how it will induct the Category 4-5 assets. This step involves CECOM headquarters, Tobyhanna Army Depot, as well as CECOM regional maintenance managers and other personnel embedded with units worldwide. Together, they work with senior leaders at Army Service Component Commands, U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Europe, 8th Army in Korea, U.S. Army Pacific and the U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard to match the induction requirements with available capacity at the depot. They also consider the supply chain for needed parts and financial resources. This preparation helps Tobyhanna better optimize its own operations.“We’re doing all this earlier than we used to,” Scheff said. “Now we can work with the different Army organizations and say, ‘Here’s the systems by serial number and unit, when’s the best time to bring it in based on your operational tempo?’ We give them info, work with them on the schedule and when we get commitment, we’re the ‘easy button.’”Trustworthy transportationUnder asset management, responsibility for system transportation no longer falls on the unit. Instead, in coordination with Army Sustainment Command, CECOM arranges for a transport truck to arrive at the unit’s motor pool. There, a CECOM team conducts a joint inventory, packs the asset and moves it to its source of repair. This is usually Tobyhanna Army Depot or one of CECOM’s four depot maintenance forward facilities in Germany; Korea; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; or Fort Hood, Texas. CECOM created its depot maintenance forward facilities in 2017 and 2018 to bring depot-level repair capabilities closer to units, improve asset availability readiness rates and have a quick-reaction forward capability to respond to sustained large-scale combat operations.In some cases, the CECOM team can do an on-the-spot, one-for-one system swap using a repair cycle float asset. Repair cycle floats are pools of high-priority C5ISR systems that are immediately available to issue if a unit’s system breaks down or needs overhaul. This means the unit receives a fresh, fully functional asset with little to no downtime, rather than waiting to receive back the same system it previously had, after repairs. While there are not always repair cycle float assets available for every system, CECOM is increasing their use as much as possible.Armywide implementationCECOM focused its initial asset management efforts in fiscal year 2019 on U.S. Army Europe and 8th Army. Scheff said that in the past, unit commanders may have been reluctant to let go of C5ISR equipment, because it could be months before they would receive it back. But thanks to these operational changes, average transportation times to the source of repair have dropped to just three days, down from up to 60 days. And with repair cycle floats, units often receive a replacement asset immediately. So today, “It’s no longer a question of whether we should or shouldn’t induct the system, it’s when,” Scheff said.Building on its success in Europe and Korea, in fiscal year 2020, CECOM is implementing asset management with U.S. Army Forces Command, specifically I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; III Corps at Fort Hood; and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Mike Burrell, a CECOM logistics management specialist, noted all these organizations are focused on a common goal of operationalizing sustainment maintenance to ensure Army equipment readiness. The key to success, he said, was working with the corps senior leadership to build buy-in and confidence that the process works.In particular, in fiscal year 2021 CECOM is looking to have the corps take on more responsibility for the asset induction schedule. “We want to be able to tell the corps, ‘Tell us what needs to get fixed,’” Burrell said. “That way, we know we’re fixing what the Army needs, not just going against a schedule we create.”