Magazine article National Defense

A Year at War: One Million Pieces of Damaged Equipment

Magazine article National Defense

A Year at War: One Million Pieces of Damaged Equipment

Article excerpt

REPAIRS OF WORN-OUT AND WAR-DAMAGED Army equipment are certain to remain a $13 billion to $15 billion-a-year business - if not higher - for the foreseeable future.

In 2007 alone, the Army will repair an unprecedented one million pieces of combat hardware - including combat vehicles, aircraft, trucks, missiles, communications gear, electronics, artillery, small arms and assorted support equipment, according to estimates provided by the Army.

Of the one million pieces of equipment, the largest share is made up of combat vehicles and vehicular components (267,000), communications and electronics equipment (360,000) and logistics support gear for ground forces (172,000).

A single combat brigade on average operates 320,000 different pieces of equipment.

Most of the repair work, or about 90 percent, is done by the Army's own maintenance units in forward-deployed installations and bases stateside. The other 10 percent is performed at Army depots and at contractors' facilities.

The amount of work is likely to continue for at least two years after Army troops withdraw from Iraq, officials said.

Managing the repair workload has proved more difficult than anyone in the Army had expected when the war began in 2003. Units rotate in and out of combat zones and leave their equipment behind, for the most part, which complicates efforts to keep track of it and to determine what needs to be fixed or replaced. Additionally, those units that return to their home bases need training equipment so they can be ready to go back to Iraq as soon as one year later. To further complicate matters, the Army has several types of units, and each has unique hardware requirements.

It all adds up to a huge coordination and management challenge, said Col. Carl J. Cartwright, deputy for field support at the Army Sustainment Command, in Rock Island, III.

The command is responsible for the logistics support of combat units around the world. ASC has brigades stationed in Germany, lrag, South Korea and Qatar, and in the United States at Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Lewis, Wash. More than 60 battalions are dispersed to various combat zones to better grasp the needs of the tactical commanders, Cartwright said in an interview.

"Our focus is combat brigades," he said. But the ASC also must support those specialized units that typically are not assigned to a brigade, such as guartermaster, medical and maintenance companies. "Our field reps visit commanders weekly."

Ensuring that every unit has the equipment it needs is a "big challenge because every unit is different," Cartwright said. "Each one has different kinds of equipment." Their schedules are diverse too. "We have to understand their timeline. Some units are told to plan differently, not under the 180-day or 360-day model." The Army usually takes 180 days to reset an active-duty brigade, and 360 days for reserve units.

Stryker brigades, for example, operate distinct equipment. The most difficult units to equip are the so-called sustainment brigades, which provide maintenance and supplies.

The hardware that returns from combat is either sent to "field level maintenance" at Army bases or to "national level" depot maintenance.

"We try to use government facilities first... and then we go to contractors," said Cartwright.

The ASC, however, is not responsible for the repairs of National Guard equipment. "They run their own programs for the most part," said Cartwright. "As a rule, I have a National Guard officer on our staff and they talk to the National Guard Bureau. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.