Semiannual AERWG meetings help the Army adapt and evolve its force-equipping methodology in the face of a changing world and austere budgets
By MG Robert M. “Bo” Dyess Jr. and Mr. David N. Lakin
It’s pronounced “earwig,” like the bug, but if you’re a Soldier downrange, this earwig—AERWG, or the Army Equipping Reuse Working Group—can make the difference between having and not having the right equipment, at the right time, to accomplish your mission.
AERWG is a semiannual, Armywide series of meetings held over three days where force managers, equippers and operators discuss and resolve the Army’s most pressing equipping issues. Hosted by Headquarters DA (HQDA) G-8, the Army Materiel Command (AMC) and the Army Sustainment Command, AERWG provides opportunities for communication and coordination between senior leaders, action officers and top equippers.
Representatives from Army commands (ACOMs); Army service component commands (ASCCs); direct reporting units (DRUs) and reserve components, including the Army equipping enterprise community; force development “hardware” divisions, G-3/5/7; Forces Command; and the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) attend to identify the equipment needs from big formations to Soldiers and the squad.
Besides the name, what also makes these meetings unique is that AERWG participants review equipment distribution plans for the next two years; “scrub” modified tables of organization and equipment (MTOEs); and scrutinize systemic “friction-generating” issues through special topic sessions at the strategic level for resolution. (An MTOE is the document that authorizes the unit to have the personnel and equipment necessary to accomplish its mission.)
SYNCHRONIZE AND DELIVER
AERWG is about readiness: providing our Soldiers and squads the tools they need to accomplish their mission, whether it’s for training or combat. Ensuring that Soldiers have the nation’s best equipment to get the job done is the top priority of G-8.
In 2004, the operational tempo in Iraq and Afghanistan was evolving faster than the Army’s institutional systems could adapt, so G-8 held the first Army equipping conference with major stakeholders attending from ACOMSs, ASCCs, DRUs, HQDA staff, the ASA(ALT) and program executive offices. It soon evolved into a semiannual meeting, with an expanded list of participants to synchronize all emerging operational requirements and apportion the Army’s equipment.
AERWG is a three-part operation. AMC leads the equipping distribution sessions to synchronize the allotment of equipment with emerging needs, to build readiness, so that missions, either training or combat, can be successfully completed. AMC’s job, in coordination with ASA(ALT)’s program managers, is to distribute and field equipment, while G-8 is responsible for programming the resources to procure the equipment.
During the draft MTOE equipment review sessions, AERWG participants match up the timelines of the Army’s operational priorities up to 24 months out with the equipment a unit is scheduled to receive.
“We’ve found the best way to ensure equipment readiness for the Soldier and squad is to plan about two years into the future, to get ahead of any equipping problems that might come up,” said COL Brian Halloran, chief of the G-8 Force Development Plans, Strategy and Policy Division. “We scrub a unit’s operational needs, the Army’s operational priorities and the timelines, to make sure they are all linked. If we all have the same view, we can be more flexible, make changes together and adapt. We know there will be changes, so having this forum twice a year provides an opportunity to stay synchronized with the operating needs of our Army.”
The special topics discussion during the final session tackles issues at the strategic level across the Army that impact specific equipping problems, such as divestiture policy and materiel management, that could stand in the way of equipment readiness.
“Without AERWG we would not have the right equipment, the right quantities or the right type, to the right units in the right amount of time,” said MG Daniel L. Karbler, FD director of Joint and Integration. “Our job is to coordinate and integrate across all the players in the Army equipping enterprise to get Soldiers their gear on time with the right level of training to support their mission.”
Through his Operational Integration Division, led by COL Steven E. Brewer, Karbler accomplishes this task and tracks equipment on-hand readiness across the ACOMS and ASCCs to ensure units have adequate types and quantities for deployment and redeployment.
“If there was no AERWG, our effort to get Soldiers the equipment they need to meet the Army’s operational priorities would be piecemealed, instead of having the whole weight of the institutional and operational Army working together,” he said. “We want to streamline processes and save money on transportation costs by moving equipment only once to a location. The most effective way to move equipment and build readiness is to minimize the movement of equipment.”
MAKING DO WITH LESS
According to the “The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World 2020-2040,” because of “reduced budgets, joint and Army forces may not have ready forces in sufficient scale to respond to and resolve crises.”
Recent budget constraints have caused the Army to extend procurement timelines. For example, the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program has a planned procurement of 20 years. This dilemma increases the importance of prioritizing missions and matching a unit with specific equipment. A unit must have on hand certain equipment for training at a home station, at a combat training center and down-range, or receive it in theater to execute a mission.
Less money and less equipment makes the AERWG process more critical now, by providing a forum to share a common operating picture of where the Army is headed for building equipment readiness for Soldiers and squad, now and into the future.
The Army has used the Army Force Generation system for sustaining combat operations in two theaters over an extended period, but is introducing a new system, the sustainable readiness model (SRM). SRM will continue to use rotational forces to meet the majority of combatant commanders’ requirements for planned and contingency operations, and sustain readiness for emerging missions.
AERWG and SRM provide senior leaders with an opportunity to plan up to two to three years in advance for the new equipment their units will require for training and combat, by synchronizing units, missions and equipment requirements. The challenge comes when ASCCs deploy and redeploy and the resulting changes in their unit’s structure impact the equipment they will need. AERWG tries to minimize any friction points between equipment priorities and equipment readiness.
During the last 15 years it was the Army’s policy to frequently ‘equip, train and man.’ The Army wants to move to a model that mans the unit and then equips it, providing the commander an opportunity to train the unit and determine how ready his Soldiers are to accomplish their mission. We need to ensure that no Soldier, whether active duty, Army National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve, goes downrange without the right equipment. The AERWG will continue to support this critical goal by addressing the concerns of the equipping stakeholders throughout our Army.
For more information, contact the Division Chief of the Plans, Strategy and Policy Division, Force Development, G-8, HQDA, at 703-692-4945.
MG ROBERT M. “BO” DYESS JR. is the director of force development, HQDA G-8. Previously he served as director of the Requirements Integration Directorate, Army Capabilities Integration Center and as division chief, Force Integration, Combined Security Assistance Command – Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He holds an M.S. in systems engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and an M.S. in strategic studies from The Air University. He was commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1982, where he earned a B.S.
MR. DAVID N. LAKIN is an analyst with the Plans, Strategy and Policy Division in the Force Development Directorate, HQDA G-8. He has held a wide variety of public affairs positions in the private and public sectors, including public affairs officer for U.S. Forces – Afghanistan from January 2011 to July 2013. He holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in political science from Coe College.
This article was originally published in the July – September 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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