Ready for Future Operations: Establishing an Organic Depot to Maintain the Army’s Premier Aerial Sensor System

By Lt. Col. Kecia Troy, Ms. Carla Miller, Mr. Joshua Erlien and Dr. Christina Bates

Industry Sustainment of Army Systems

For the first time in our Nation’s history, our armed forces have waged battle with a new enemy – an enemy in the form of non-state actors engaged in asymmetric, irregular warfare. The development, acquisition, fielding, and sustainment of the types of systems (and capabilities) necessary to successfully engage in asymmetrical warfare have stressed, but simultaneously strengthened, the Army’s ability to do so in a rapid, effective, and efficient manner. These successes, however, ushered in new and different challenges for the Army. The Army is expected to continue to excel in a fiscally-challenging environment.

Coupled with fiscal constraints, are the challenges resulting from more than a decade’s worth of rapid system procurements, including the Army’s heavy reliance on industry for maintenance and sustainment of weapon systems. This reliance on industry, and the risks associated with it, were brought into sharp focus in the spring of 2014, when a team of sensor experts within the Project Manager Terrestrial Sensors (PM TS) decided to explore the feasibility of facilitizing an organic sustainment depot to maintain and repair one of the Army’s premier aerial sensor systems—the Common Sensor Payload (CSP). Over the following three (3) years, the Team would develop and execute an aggressive plan to conduct supportability analyses and eventually stand-up a fully-functioning, efficient sustainment depot that maintains and repairs the Army’s entire CSP fleet. In the course of planning and implementing, the Team overcame numerous challenges, effectively navigated various stakeholder relationships, and established best practices that may be readily applied by others considering the establishment of an organic sustainment capability.

Taking the Leap to Establish Organic Sustainment Capabilities

The Product Manager Electro-optic/Infrared Payloads (PdM EO/IR—a subordinate command of PM TS) manages the CSP program. The CSP is one of the Army’s primary aerial sensor systems for gathering intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data. It is an electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor that is integrated on the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and operates throughout the Gray Eagle’s flight mission profile and operational altitude. The CSP provides targeting video to the Gray Eagle operator and lases the target for laser tracking munitions. As such, CSP enables collection of actionable combat information across the entire battlespace, improving the Commander’s ability to concentrate superior combat power against the enemy at the decisive time and place. Furthermore, the CSP capabilities are common with similar unmanned aerial systems of the same class, promoting the potential for Joint commonality, as well as acquisition and better buying power advantages.

The CSP was traditionally maintained and repaired by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Raytheon, at the CSP Depot located in McKinney, Texas. With an eye toward reducing costs without sacrificing quality or system performance, PdM EO/IR began exploring the feasibility of transitioning responsibility for the CSP’s maintenance and repair from Raytheon to the Government (i.e., PdM EO/IR).

In early 2014, PdM EO/IR established the Joint Payloads Integrated Product Team (JPIPT) to identify and implement organic repair and multi-Service efficiency initiatives with a focus on consolidation of efforts among the Services. The JPIPT comprised members from PdM EO/IR, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWCCD), US Air Force MQ-9 Special Projects Office (SPO), and the Communications-Electronics Command Lifecycle Management Command (CECOM LCMC) G8 Cost and Systems Analysis Office. The JPIPT worked its way through several challenging tasks to establish an organic maintenance depot. These tasks included developing the CSP Depot Sustainment Comparison Analysis; creating and briefing the Depot Execution Strategy; and ultimately working in close coordination with the other Services to stand up the organic depot.

To understand the various options available for effectively maintaining the CSP, the JPIPT’s first step was to conduct a Depot Sustainment Comparison Analysis. Doing so included the following steps: extracting average repair labor hours per work breakdown structure (WBS) element; determining government equivalent labor rates for each WBS element; modeling different depot repair scenarios; applying appropriate labor cost categories for each element in the scenario; and performing sensitivity analyses to test variance in Wartime and Peacetime operational tempo (­OPTEMPO) and government overhead rates. To complete these steps, the JPIPT partnered with various team members across the Services and within the CECOM Lifecycle Management Command (LCMC). The effort was truly collaborative and cross-functional.

The analysis resulted in several findings. The most significant findings revealed that government rates to operate the depot would be far less than contractor rates, with no negative impact to performance. Findings also indicated that a specific and narrow need existed for reach back engineering support from the OEM. This support could ultimately be narrowly defined and managed at a very reasonable cost. And, since the depot would be utilized by all of the Services, the costs (both Government and contractor support) would be shared accordingly.

Once the Team’s results and interpretations were briefed and approved, it developed the Depot Execution Strategy. The Strategy included the following key elements: approaching depot maintenance in two phases to minimize the risk of observing gaps in depot repair capability (i.e., phase 1: depot reach back support by leveraging existing contract for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) depot engineering reach back support as needed, and phase 2: implement organic alternative (Government owns every process of depot maintenance)); leveraging existing support equipment procured by the Air Force and Navy; securing a contract for depot activation (including delta support equipment, technical data, and training); and receiving approval to proceed with depot activation by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA(ALT)). With the Strategy in hand, the Team set out to execute on the four pillars of depot facilitization to stand-up the capability.

The Four Pillars of Depot Facilitization

Standing up, or “facilitizing” an organic maintenance depot includes executing on four pillars of facilitization —securing technical manuals and testing procedures; securing hardware and test equipment; establishing and optimizing the supply chain; and training, and transferring capability to in-house (i.e., Government) personnel. It is important to note that the pillars are interdependent; for example, issues securing technical manuals and testing procedures may negatively impact training and transferring capability to in-house personnel. Therefore, each pillar should ideally be thoroughly addressed to ensure a smooth and successful depot stand-up.

Throughout the stand-up process, the Team encountered and overcame several challenges associated with each pillar. First, as the Team began to gather technical source data to develop technical manuals, it discovered that some technical source data was missing. To address this challenge, the Team collaborated with the OEM, who then provided a dedicated resource with engineering and logistics expertise to supplement technical source data. Together the Team and the OEM subject matter expert (SME) generated robust technical manuals that would serve as the foundation for training and transferring capability to in-house personnel.

Securing the hardware was not difficult, since most (but not all) of the equipment at the depot was already Government owned. However, the establishment of effective configuration management between the Government equipment and the OEM’s equipment proved challenging. The Team spent months validating its test procedures against all equipment at the depot, including the OEM’s equipment. Moreover, as configuration management efforts proceeded, the associated technical manuals required updating. Leaning forward, the Team also established processes to support gathering future feedback from the OEM on testing procedures in anticipation of future testing changes.

Managing the supply chain proved to be the hardest pillar for the Team. Since it shared its technical data package with all of the other Services, it needed to establish primary inventory control authority (PICA), before it could fully understand the system’s supply chain and how best to manage it. Currently, the Army is represented as a user to the Navy on certain CSP parts, while it is represented as the PICA for other CSP parts. To mitigate the risk of the interdependices associated with sharing the PICA roles among the Services, the Team established an IPT in which they discuss and resolve various issues, including those stemming from the sharing of technical data, such as configuration management and obsolescence. In this manner, the Team ensures that the supply chain effectively and efficiently supports depot maintenance operations and contributes to acceptable operational readiness rates for the CSP.

Ready for Prime Time

The Depot was formally launched in May 2017 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. (U.S. Army photo)

The Depot was formally launched in May 2017 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. (U.S. Army photo)

What began with a question—“Can we effectively establish an organic depot to maintain the CSP?”—in early 2014 culminated with a clear answer—“yes!”, as the CSP Depot formally launched in May 2017. In a short, but busy three years, the JPIPT transitioned what was once a completely outsourced effort to a primarily government operated, fully and successfully functioning maintenance depot for the Army’s premier aerial sensor system. Moreover, the Depot provides maintenance support for all of the Services, and as such is a shining example of the efficiencies espoused in Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0. These efficiencies will greatly benefit the Army, Air Force, and Marine Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and will also benefit manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems including the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARRS), the Airborne Reconnaissance Low system (ARL) and Guardrail, as well as Aerostats, at a fraction of the previous cost.

 

Lt. Col. Kecia Troy is the Product Manager for Electro-Optic/Infrared Payloads and is responsible for the cost, schedule, and performance of a broad portfolio of payloads that provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. She holds a BA in Economics from Duke University and a MS in Global Supply Chain Management from Syracuse University. Troy is Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certified Level III in Program Management and Level II in Information Technology.

Ms. Carla Miller serves as the Product Support Manager (PSM) for PdM EO/IR Payloads. As the PSM, Ms. Miller is responsible for managing the integrated product support elements required to field and maintain the readiness and operational capability of all the sensors within the PdM EO/IR portfolio. Ms. Miller is Level III Acquisition Life Cycle Logistics certified, successfully completed the Defense Acquisition University Executive Product Support Managers Course (LOG 465) and holds a Master of Business Administration in Management from Hawaii Pacific University.

Mr. Joshua Erlien serves as the Chief of Logistics for the Electro-Optic Technology Division within the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. Erlien functions as the Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (MTS) Enterprise Lead helping establish inter-service efficiencies for new MTS capability development, acquisition, and sustainment. He is Defense Acquisition Corps Certified, with a B.A. in Military Management and Program Acquisition from American Military University.

Dr. Christina Bates
 provides contract support as a strategic advisor, planner, and strategic communications expert to various organizations within the Army Acquisition and Research, Development, and Engineering communities, including the Project Manager Terrestrial Sensors and the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. Bates holds a PhD in Communication with an emphasis on Organizational Communication and Behavior from Arizona State University; a MS, with distinction from Boston University; a JD from Boston University; and a BA, cum laude from Boston College.

 

This article is an honorable mention in the 2017 Maj. Gen. Harold J. “Harry” Green Awards for Acquisition Writing competition. A special supplement featuring the winning entries is online now, and will accompany the print version of the April – June 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. If you wish to be added to the magazine’s mailing list, subscribe online; if you’d like multiple subscriptions, please send an email to armyalt @gmail.com.

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