Security Assistance Command explores how to expedite the process of getting rid of the Army’s old equipment.
by Marcus Mackey
The U.S. Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) is demonstrating a concept that could offset millions of dollars in divestiture expenses for the U.S. Army as it removes excess equipment from inventory and modernizes the force.
For decades, the Army has consolidated its excess equipment—helicopters, mobile rocket launchers, tanks and tactical wheeled vehicles, for example—at various Army depots and stored it for years with the idea of having a reach-back capability for future programs or in the event of a national emergency. Unfortunately, the stored equipment is minimally maintained and over time it deteriorates, until a decision is made to either declare the equipment as “excess defense articles” or to demilitarize it―eliminating their functional capabilities and inherent military design features by either removing or destroying the critical features, or by total destruction: cutting, tearing, crushing, mangling, shredding, melting, burning, and so on.
Excess Defense Articles is a security assistance program managed by the U.S. Department of State that enables the modernization of partner forces. USASAC, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), is the Army’s implementing agency for foreign military sales, by which the United States provides partners and allies with a capability to conduct military operations with or without U.S. forces in their region for security and stability.
In 2011, the Army became aware that it had too much equipment and needed a strategy to reduce the inventory. After 10 years of war, senior Army leaders realized they would not be able to sustain the current equipment while also working to modernize the force. The projected shipping, storage and maintenance costs associated with the excess equipment would create an enduring burden to the taxpayer, and that was unacceptable. The Excess Defense Articles mission transfers equipment declared excess by the Army to U.S. foreign partners at low or no cost. The approval process goes through the Army and interagency staffing before ultimately being presented to Congress for approval―which historically has proven to take a long time.
The Army’s solution was to create a working group to identify excess equipment and determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to quickly remove it from the Army’s property books. While the working group has had several names over the years, including the Army Divestiture Working Group, Equipment Redistribution and Divestiture Readiness Strategy, and currently the Total Equipment Management Strategy, its goal has remained the same: to build Army readiness while purging excess and obsolete equipment―as soon as possible.
With this new expedited approach, once equipment was determined to be excess, then disposition instructions were created: ship to another unit; ship to Army depots for long-term storage; or, in most cases, ship to the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services for demilitarization. The velocity of these turn-ins created a challenge for USASAC: Equipment being divested was no longer going to depots for storage, and the Excess Defense Article program’s ability to staff and approve transfers to partner nations, which typically takes three to six months, was being overwhelmed. Opportunities to support our partners’ modernization efforts and build partner capacity were missed; a change was needed.
Recognizing the lost opportunities, USASAC’s Excess Defense Articles team started to explore a new approach. They needed to be able to identify equipment and partners’ requirements earlier and to develop a more streamlined approval process. Therefore, USASAC had to figure out how to get operational equipment—condition code F (repairable) or better—directly from units and transfer it to partner nations without slowing down divestiture or costing the Army money.
Lem Williams, chief of the Mission Support Division within USASAC G-3, is leading the effort. “Having USASAC formally inserted into Army processes will give us the visibility to get in front of divestiture decisions, and enables us to align partner requirements with COCOM (combatant command) commanders’ requirements prior to final disposition instructions,” he said.
Williams and his team have been able to leverage the Army’s Decision Support Tool to identify excess equipment and forecast potential opportunities for U.S. partners. In coordination with the Logistics Data Analysis Center, formerly the Logistics Support Activity, the team was instrumental in creating the Foreign Military Sales Function within the tool, which will empower USASAC to vet equipment and will provide the Army another option to source equipment.
To share its vision, the Excess Defense Articles team planned, coordinated, hosted and steered multiple working groups with HQDA, AMC, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command and the Logistics Data Analysis Center. In 2017, the team’s work started to pay off. The working group developed a proof of principle that would be executed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. USASAC would receive light medium tactical vehicles directly from units and transfer them directly to partner nations on site at no cost to the Army.
The proof of principle will involve the transfer of 100 excess operational M1078, M1083 and M1084 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles to Morocco. Historically, the unit would pay to prepare and ship a vehicle to another installation or depot; it will not have to do so for the proof of principle. Participating units have turned in or will turn in the equipment; USASAC will receive the equipment; and the partner will pay to have the equipment stored and shipped to its final destination. Most of the equipment the units have turned in to the 406th Army Field Support Battalion is in better condition than code F, and most is serviceable without qualification or better.
By transferring the trucks at the source of supply, the Army will save taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise have been paid to consolidate, transport or demilitarize this equipment. In this case, these trucks will help Morocco in its efforts to modernize its military, provide interoperability and build relations needed in today’s multidomain battlefield.
Through September 2019, USASAC had transferred and shipped 50 vehicles to partner nations; the last 50 should be shipped by the end of fiscal year 2019. This speed is unprecedented: Most Excess Defense Articles cases typically take three to six months for the approval process and sometimes several years to complete. Once the final 50 vehicles are shipped, this case will have been implemented and closed within one year.
USASAC has previously tested this theory, but could not completely codify it, during the Army’s divestment of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The Army initially issued a directive to divest all OH-58Ds, but amended its plans to “partial divest” and wanted to store them at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Each retained aircraft cost the Army approximately $35,000 to prepare for type A storage (which involved encasing the engine and electronics in shrink or bubble wrap for long-term storage). After type A storage, the cost to bring each helicopter back to operational status is $350,000 to $500,000.
USASAC had foreign partners—Croatia, Greece and Tunisia—that were interested in the OH-58Ds, and the Excess Defense Articles team created a plan that would transition the aircraft and generate cost savings for the Army and the partners. The plan included storing the aircraft in flight-ready condition, paid for by the customer (at a cost of $3,000 a month), at Redstone Arsenal Airfield, Alabama. The Army thereby avoided the transportation and storage prep costs, and the foreign partners avoided the regeneration cost that would have been incurred with sending them to Arizona.
This common-sense thinking has been the driving force behind USASAC’s efforts to transform the Excess Defense Articles program from a reactive pseudo-solution to a proactive force multiplier. Being able to identify up front which allies or partners may be able to use the Army’s outdated, excess equipment speeds up the process of removing it from the Army’s inventory and helps build capacity in allies and partners. The result is a win-win situation for Army and ally and partner readiness. The Army divests excess equipment quickly at the unit level, which also speeds up modernization of the unit―and saves money. Additionally, partners and allies receive military equipment at a reduced cost while gaining both a capability and interoperability with U.S. forces.
For more information, contact the author at 256-450-4750 or contact Lem Williams, chief of the USASAC Operations Division, at 256-450-4043.
MARCUS MACKEY is the USASAC G-3 Excess Defense Articles Modernization program manager at Redstone Arsenal. He is a retired Army veteran with more than 20 years of service as a logistician with multiple deployments to Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia. He was recently inducted into the Madison County, Alabama, Hall of Heroes 2018 class. He holds a B.S. in management from the University of Phoenix Moment.. .