As the Army’s main retrograde site for equipment returning from Southwest Asia, Tank-automotive and Armament Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command’s (LCMC) Sierra Army Depot (SIAD) plays a critical role in partnerships with organizations like AMC’s Responsible Reset Task Force (R2TF) and the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC).
The foundation for SIAD’s unique capabilities to maintain, ready, and expedite equipment, supplies, and systems to nearly anywhere in the world is built on its high desert climate and a foundational infrastructure that includes an on-post C-5- and C-17-capable airfield – lengthened to 10,000 feet in 2007 – and over 60 miles of rail, three rail classification yards, and two locomotives with fully certified crews to facilitate large shipments to and from the main Union Pacific line adjacent to the depot. Additional capacity and facilities include 7 million cubic feet of covered warehouse space, 799 earth-covered igloos, 34 million cubic feet of improved open storage, and 500,000 square feet of industrial space.
The characteristics and capabilities contribute to the depot mission statement: Provide worldwide expeditionary logistics support for the defenders of our nation through long-term storage; maintenance; care of supplies in storage; Reset; and container management – while embracing the Army values.
For the last several years, SIAD has leveraged its expertise as an expeditionary logistics facility to increase capacity and capabilities in support of the Army’s Southwest (SWA) Reverse Pipeline Initiative. That program, also known as the “AJ1” program, provides for the receipt, identification, condition code classification, storage, care of supplies in storage (COSIS), security, accountability, disposal, and shipment of all excess non-Army managed items (NAMI) and some Army managed items (AMI).
“When the theater realized, back in mid-to-early ’02-’03, that they had excess materiel and were going to close the supply support activity Qatar and re-deploy to Kuwait, they needed a place to send the equipment,” explained Don Olson, deputy commander of SIAD. “They asked us if we could receive it, and we said, ‘Yes.’ So we started that program, called the Southwest Asia Reverse Pipeline, and instead of shipping stuff over to support the theater, it was the theater shipping stuff back, because they were running out of places to store it over there.
“So we started that program in October of ’03 with about half of a warehouse worth of materiel that came from Qatar. It was all classified as ‘dirty stock’ that had been shipped to support the units in the field. They had determined over there that it was excess to their needs. They went through a ‘redistribution’ of assets in theater. And after they saw that certain materiel items were not needed over there, … they returned them back to us to store.”
According to John A. Dingman, director of AJ1 operations at SIAD, the reverse pipeline was originally expected to be a relatively short duration program of “18 months or less.”
“We started receiving excess materiel from SWA and getting items from posts, camps, and stations worldwide. We quickly realized that our receiving function would become the heart of our operation. Any errors in the materiel identification process would be amplified as the assets were brought to record, stored, and ultimately shipped directly to Soldiers in the field. That led us to start revamping our processes by implementing ‘Lean Six Sigma’ initiatives, benchmarking with private industry, and examining other ways to improve the process. As we got better with this effort, the Army continued to see the readiness impact directly to the Soldiers and units by having Sierra perform this critical function. The initial successes in this program drove the Army to ask Sierra to perform these functions for other programs critical to Soldier readiness including Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE) and Non Standard-Equipment (NS-E).”
“We have gone through some growing during this process,” Olson echoed. “But today we are the best in the world at receiving ‘dirty stock,’ identifying the materiel, classifying it, bringing it to record, managing the stock, and then reutilizing the stock for the Army based on the users’ wants and needs. Nobody else does it better than us: Nobody.”
He continued, “After establishing successes with the SWA Reverse Pipeline operation we started bringing people out here to view those successes. Leadership from TACOM LCMC, AMC, and senior Army leadership started coming out here and seeing what we were doing with that ‘dirty stock.’ And we showed them how, once we started managing the stock and filling requisitions for the Army units, we were dramatically increasing and enhancing their readiness. After they saw that they started asking what else they could do that with.”
One of the growing number of program responsibilities, which arrived in FY 08, involved
SIAD’s designation as the Army’s consolidation and distribution center for the Central Management Office (CMO), performing brigade-level OCIE RESET operations.
“Under the RESET program we started resetting the Soldiers with clothing,” Dingman noted. “And then from there we got the Reserve program, where they wanted us to outfit Reserve units as well.”
“We talked to the CMO and he said, ‘I want you to start receiving clothing and bringing it “to record” in an accountable record that I will have visibility over,’” Olson observed. “So the OCIE program was started for receipt of materiel, identification, classification, bringing it to record, managing it, and then shipping it based on the customers’ wants and needs. Once we started seeing success with clothing, the CMO realized that they could now do that on a wholesale level, by shipping us new materiel, which we could bring together with older materiel that we ‘reclaimed.’ We could then Reset brigades – wholesale – to where they don’t have to have all of this clothing materiel forward at the clothing issue facilities [CIF]. Instead we would hold it at Sierra, package up an entire package for a brigade Reset of units, and then ship it forward to the CIF at Fort Sill or Fort Hood or wherever.”
He continued, “Then, after about 10 brigade Resets, the CMO realized, ‘This is good stuff.’ Let’s start doing it for the Reserve components. So just this past year we started doing the Reset activities for the individual Soldiers in the Reserve components.”
“We have over 200,000 lines of materiel for the Reset,” Dingman said. “We have Reset over $185 million worth of materiel with a $70 million cost-avoidance factor delivered to CMO.”
According to Olson, the program growth didn’t stop with the OCIE successes.
“As the Army saw all the goodness we were producing with OCIE, they looked at all of this non standard-equipment [NS-E] that they had over in theater, asking, ‘What are we going to do with that?’ We said, ‘We’ll take it.’ It’s the same process: receipt of the materiel, identification, classification, bringing it to record, making it visible, and then doing something with it that is of value to the Army. And so far we have received about 13,000 individual items from theater – stuff that does not have a standard NSN [National Stock Number] – and through our processes we have reissued about 2,100 items back to Installation Management Command installations around the world,” he said.
“How much is coming? We don’t know,” he said. “We hear upwards of 200,000 individual items – $13 billion worth of equipment. We don’t know how big it is really going to be, but we have been designated as the main retrograde site for the Army.”
“To manage this retrograde effort, we started out with approximately seven employees and now we are up to about 556 employees,” Dingman said. “We had one program when we started out and we now have seven different programs. We started with one section and we are now running 12 different sections. And most recently we just picked up the Rapid Fielding Initiative. So we went from AJ1, OCIE, the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the RESET, the Reserves, the NS-E, and we also do the Class 3 package products, which is all the materiel coming back like antifreeze and corrosives.”
Current property book values include $30 million of NS-E, $93 million for SWA Reverse Pipeline/AJ1, $115 million for OCIE RESET, $300 million for OCIE Retrograde, $165 million for OCIE Reserves, and $150 million for Rapid Fielding Initiative clothing items.
Although the future is always uncertain, SIAD has positioned itself to address those uncertainties.
“It depends on the flow of the materiel from theater,” Olson said. “If, all of a sudden, they were to ship us 20,000 containers, we would download them on the ground, and then we would attack them, based on an established priority. So the good news is, if the Army wants to ‘clear the desert’ now, they can do it. Just put the materiel in a container and ship it here. They don’t need to document it or do anything else with it. We will empty the container, receive the materiel, identify it, classify it, bring it to one of our four accountable records to make it visible to Army leadership, and then we would do something with it. But we would get it out of theater and we would get it behind Army fence lines.”
Olson’s understanding of in-theater issues is based, in part, on his prior service deployments to Southwest Asia (Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan), as well as lead on a Sierra Army Depot team of experts that recently visited the R2TF in theater and provided suggestions on equipment retrograde at that location.
End of First Life Center
In addition to highlighting SIAD’s recent expansion of responsibilities, Depot Commander Lt. Col. Joseph G. Dalessio points to Sierra’s ongoing initiative as the Army’s End of First Life Center. With about 10,000 armored combat vehicles currently located at SIAD, the initiative includes equipment consolidation, surveillance and inspection, pre-positioned stock, care of supplies in storage, asset and inventory management, regeneration programs for both end item and sub-components, upgrades and redistribution, configuration management, and kit and system assembly/disassembly.
“There are four pillars in this initiative,” Dalessio explained. “One is to establish a readiness fleet up to 10/20 standard, ready to go out the door at a moment’s notice, when required. Second is Foreign Military Sales [FMS]. We are getting a lot of FMS activity here for the M113 variants. The third effort is ‘parts pull.’ We do a lot of business in the ‘parts pull arena’ with the M1 tanks to support Anniston and Lima production lines. But we don’t touch any combat platform until directed by the PM [project manager]. The fourth pillar is the reclamation/reutilization of metals on those vehicles. Rather than just giving the end item to Defense Logistics Agency [DLA], processes can be applied to bring that money back into the Army.”
According to Olson, the underpinnings for the initiative date back to 2002 and a “Boneyard Study” conducted by the United States Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA).
“That was an AMSAA study focusing on combat vehicles and where they were,” he said. “And that study said that, if the Army is not going to use a combat vehicle for between two and five years, to either run through a Reset activity or to do something with it of value to the Army – send it to Sierra.
“One of the reasons for that is that DLA currently charges the Army upwards of $35 million a year to store combat vehicles,” he added. “The Army gets no value for that. DLA just stores it and charges the Army to put it on the ground. The Army realized that was money they didn’t need to spend, so that’s why they charged AMSAA with doing the study.”
The cost avoidance for SIAD versus storage at a Defense Logistics Agency activity of the tracked vehicles alone is calculated to be in excess of $17.626 million for the time period between Sept. 21, 2004 through Feb. 19, 2008.
Olson continued, “Once the equipment is here, our charter is very clear: Receive it; bring it to record; make it visible. That was what we did in the 2002-2004 timeframe. Then, around 2004, we brought the senior AMC leadership out to Sierra, and convinced then-Commander Gen. [Benjamin S.] Griffin, that we had all of these ‘repairable assets’ but no idea what was on each one of them. We convinced Gen. Griffin that it would make sense for us to provide him with a list of the inventory assets on each tank, each APC, and each major piece of equipment, based on what the item manager wanted. So the item manager identified 250-300 components that they wanted visibility on for each vehicle.”
The process led to the implementation of an inventory process whereby SIAD conducts inventories of those individual components – a tank, for example, having 304 individual component items inventories – and associate them by serial number with that tank.
“So each tank is basically its own inventory location,” Olson said. “We know where each tank is, by serial number, and where it is placed in our yard. And we know, on each tank, how many of those 304 individual components that the item manager is interested in are on each individual tank. That information is fed up to TACOM in an automated database, and they now can provide that visibility to ‘wanters of components’ that they are currently having trouble getting through the supply system. They know we have 600-700 tanks. They know what is on each tank. And if they need a piece or part or component, they can then requisition through the item manager to tell Sierra to go pull that part.
“So we’ve had a lot of success, over the last two years specifically, with about 8,000 components shipped to Anniston Army Depot, Red River Army Depot, Lima Tank Plant, Fort Hood, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And when we can ship to the organic industrial base activities we can keep them from having line stoppages. Moreover, the cost to buy those 8,000 components new would have been over $65 million. We took them off of tanks that were sitting in an ‘excess yard’ at a total cost, over the last 2 years, of less than $2 million. That’s a pretty good return on investment. And we have just scratched the surface on this right now.”
Looking toward future potentials, both Dalessio and Olson are quick to highlight Sierra’s expanding capabilities and its potential to serve as a true Army End of First Life Center of Excellence.
“The Army has assets that are excess to their needs that are stored all over the United States,” Olson said. ”The Army needs to further capitalize on this initial effort by formalizing and expanding the mission in much the same way the Air Force has done with their Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group operation at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Designated by the SECDEF in 1964 as a consolidation point for the storage, disposal, and reclamation of aircraft and aircraft components, I believe this model adapted to ground combat equipment at SIAD is a good fit for the Army now and into the foreseeable future.
“It’s all about that ‘end of first life’ notion,” he concluded. “The idea is developed. The system is procured and built. It goes out to support warfighters. It is sustained for a period of time. And then, right now, it kind of drops off the radar screen. We firmly believe that, at the time that Soldiers are finished with it ‘the first time,’ bring it to Sierra where we will make the equipment visible to senior Army leadership, so they can make management decisions of value to the Army.”
This article was first published in U.S. Army Materiel Command: 2010-2011 Edition.