A letter from the G-4 on DS+
Charles S. Mahan, Jr.
I am writing in reference to the commentary in the September-October issue of Army Logistician entitled “Direct Support Plus in Korea.” The article detailed how the 2d Infantry Division uses the Direct Support Plus (DS+) program as a means to reduce the cost of ordering engines from the wholesale supply system as well as a training tool for forward support battalion maintenance support teams. While the article certainly highlighted significant accomplishments by the soldiers in the 2d Infantry Division, I feel that I must take this opportunity to comment on the future direction of Army Maintenance and the impacts of DS+.
Today, the Army is faced with increasing operating and support costs driven in part by inconsistent standards of repair and a clear need to increase the mean time between failure (MTBF) for all components. Consequently, the National Maintenance Program was established to provide a sustainment base focused on the repair and return to stock of components repaired to a single quality standard.
As part of this effort, an integrated product team (IPT) was established to look specifically at the DS+ maintenance process, engine reliability, and ASL [authorized stockage list] stockage requirements. The IPT consisted of representatives from the heavy divisions, the major Army commands, and the Army staff. They examined DS+ from all perspectives. The AGT 1500 engine was initially designed to provide 1,100 hours of operation from the power train, but over time this reliability has declined significantly, to the point where we routinely get only 250 to 300 hours of operation between failures (MTBF) and readiness standards are maintained through the heroic efforts of our mechanics. The realities of current AGT 1500 reliability force us to institute better ways of sustaining our equipment. Emerging doctrine pushes the site of repair on such major components as the M1 tank engine increasingly toward the rear, where tools, facilities, and parts are available in more stationary facilities.
Currently, we are experiencing an MTBF of 750 hours on engines repaired to the national standard. In view of this success, DS+ is being phased out. Along with increased reliability, this change will reduce demand for AGT 1500 engines, lessen units’ maintenance workloads, decrease the size of their ASLs by eliminating forward and rear modules as stocked items, and provide a 40-percent decrease in the funding requirements to support the AGT 1500 engine. Unit commanders also will get back those soldiers pulled from their authorized positions to perform the DS+ mission.
As the Army continues to define the sustainment base and size its maintenance capacity to meet maintenance requirements, we also must consider the utilization of available capacity at all levels of maintenance. In the case of the AGT 1500 engine, the Army currently funds repair at 12 locations worldwide. However, demand analysis shows that we can meet our total requirement by using far fewer maintenance facilities. Forward positioning our engines where they are needed will ensure that we provide the best product possible without degrading engine availability to the field.
One of the additional challenges the Army faces today is our inability to track components throughout their life cycles and document reliability, usage, and costs. Consequently, as the Army develops its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Model-based objective Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army) to replace the Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS), we will realize the ability to track components by serial number and document the cost to complete all maintenance actions. This will enable the National Maintenance Manager to determine where system components are repaired most effectively, be it at the local, theater, contract, or organic depot level.
As an institution and as an Army, our objective remains providing the soldier with a quality product produced by a world-class organization for the best value. To achieve this, we must change our business practices and develop an automated logistics system (GCSS-Army) that provides us with the right information to make the best decisions possible.
Discontinuing the DS+ conversion program is a necessary step toward improved reliability. The Army has made a large investment to buy out DS+. The benefits will be improved engine life, reduced efforts to sustain the Abrams on the battlefield, and elimination of borrowed manpower to run the DS+ program. These benefits will enable commanders to better focus soldiers’ efforts on other critical systems and reduce unnecessary soldier workloads caused by excessive engine failures. When required, Army maintainers have always given, and will continue to give, personal time and energy to ensure unit success and equipment readiness. The Army’s leaders are committed to reducing those sacrifices whenever we can. Elimination of DS+ is one of our efforts to do so.
Charles S. Mahan, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4
COPYRIGHT 2003 ALMC
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group