By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 3, 2015) — Global Combat Support System-Army, or GCSS-Army, “is clearly the game-changer in logistics,” said Lt. Gen. Gustave F. Perna, announcing that the “second wave” of GCSS-Army, which launched in January, is in full swing.
Perna, deputy chief of staff, G-4, delivered opening remarks for the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare-sponsored Hot Topics: “Strategic Sustainment for a Globally Responsive and Regionally Engaged Army.”
GCSS-Army will increase better buying power, he said, as well as produce more timely, precise and effective information needed by the warfighter to move, track, maintain and account for equipment and supplies. Once GCSS-Army is fully functioning around 2017, it will allow all users in the supply chain, anywhere in the world, to connect enterprise-wide.
The new system will replace the existing suite of legacy Standard Army Management Information Systems, he said. Those include the Standard Army Retail Supply System, or SARSS, the Standard Army Maintenance System Enhanced, Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced and associated financial-management information systems.
Wave 1, which ended last year, retired the SARSS, Perna said. Wave 2, which was launched in January, converts property books and unit funding to the new system and manages maintenance aspects in the motor pools.
The efforts in the fielding of Wave 2 were demonstrated by Maj. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Perna said. “Over the last 90 days, he spent more time in the motor pool than he did executing operations, because he recognized the importance of GCSS-Army” to mission success.
Clarke’s leadership on this “provides me a sense of good, that this effort will be successful,” Perna said. “We, as logisticians, must inform our maneuver commanders and ensure they understand and grasp its importance.”
Perna spoke to a number of other logistical challenges facing the Army, including the ability to deploy at a moment’s notice to any place in the world.
“What keeps me up at night is our ability to become a logistics force that can operate rapidly worldwide and ensure we can bring the lines of communications to the maneuver commander’s requirements. We’ve been unable to do this in the past because we’ve been under the Army Forces Generation [ARFORGEN] model,” he said.
Under ARFORGEN, there was predictability in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. “We knew every 12 months we were going to deploy. We knew where we were deploying to. We knew the equipment would be there. We knew that contractor support would be there and we understood that at the end of 12 months, we’d be returning.
“This is not our future. Our future is expeditionary,” he said.
Perna said when he visits combat training centers today, he sees that the critical skills of sustainers have atrophied.
The last time the Army did not rely almost solely on contractors was in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. At the time, Perna said he commanded a battalion, which criss-crossed the entire countryside with its own “green-suiter” logistics and maintainers in the formation.
Perna recently visited the Command and General Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where 1,000 majors were meeting. “In the last 12 years, they’ve grown up in an Army that’s been predictable,” he said. “Now, we have to turn them into agile and adaptive leaders. I’m confident we can do this but it will take a focused effort.”
The successful Soldiers, of today and tomorrow, will be the innovators, Perna said, adding that he sees that a lot already.
For instance, he said he watched a number of units preparing the Army stockage list, or ASL, for deployment. The ASL includes kits, assemblies and sub-assemblies required for equipment maintenance. Instead of keeping them warehoused, the Soldiers put their ASL into 20-foot containers, which could be hooked up to a truck and towed to the airport or port of debarkation at a moment’s notice, rather than locating and sorting equipment from bins in the warehouse.
“It’s a simple concept,” he said. “That’s the type of innovative thinking we require.”
Innovative approaches are needed in many other areas, he said.
For example, the way the Army loads materiel on trains is “archaic.” Some installations have Army locomotives, other installations use contractor-run locomotives and others have no locomotives at all, he said, meaning there is a piecemeal approach to the way it is handled.
“We continue to load trains in circus-style events from the end to the front,” he said. “Industry is doing it differently. We could partner with them and they could show us how to move from installations to points of debarkation with greater ease.”
Other areas of improvement that require innovation, he said, include building a global logistics network of fixed and mobile nodes – land, air and sea – to overcome anti-access, area-denial challenges; reducing the energy and water footprint on the battlefield; and decreasing the reliance on costly strategic lift to move supplies.
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