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Army eyes soldiers' help in gear record-keeping

Oct. 11, 2012 - 07:56AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 11, 2012 - 07:56AM  |  
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The Army has lost track of some of its equipment, and it needs your help.

After more than 10 years of war, the Army is conducting a top-to-bottom scrub of its property books and inventories as part of a Campaign on Property Accountability.

"We've known that there's been a problem with property, perhaps the books not being completely balanced, and that has to do with being deployed and sending a lot of equipment [overseas]," said Col. Catherine Reese, deputy director of supply in the Army G-4.

In two years, the campaign has accounted for more than $3.4 billion in equipment, Reese said. That equates to about 1.8 billion pieces of equipment, she said.

"That stuff was in the hands of the soldiers and units, but we didn't have visibility of it," she said. "It's not that it was lost. Our records weren't correct."

To continue the campaign — an ongoing mission to properly record, account for and manage the Army's vast inventory of nonexpendable, durable property — the Army needs soldiers' help, Reese said.

"Nobody can inventory that motor pool except the soldier," she said. "No one can check those property books except the soldier. We're all, across the Army, going to try and work to fix property accountability."

And Reese said she knows the Army will never truly complete this campaign, which covers equipment such as vehicles, computers, radios and some weapon systems.

"As an Army, we're not static inventories," she said. "There's always going to be in and out, and we just went through 11 years of conflict and there's a little bit of turbulence, but … we just have to create a culture so soldiers are responsible stewards for their property."

As the Army continues to improve its record-keeping, it will potentially save money and improve unit readiness by identifying excess equipment and shortages, and moving those items where they're needed without having to buy more.

The rapid fielding of equipment, the need for specific nonstandard items unique to either Iraq or Afghanistan, and the operations tempo all contributed to some lapses in paperwork and documentation, Reese said.

"The overall campaign is very simple," she said. "Bring everything to record and reinvigorate a culture of stewardship."

After the initial $3.4 billion in equipment that was brought to record, the numbers have steadied, Reese said. This year, the Army is seeing about $300 million in equipment being put on the record every quarter, she said.

Much of this equipment, now that the Army is tracking it, will be used to fill shortages, Reese said. In the past two years, the Army has moved $43.3 billion in equipment to fill shortages, she said.

This isn't the first time the Army has taken such a close look at its property books.

Operation Total Recall in 2005 was the first Army-wide effort to clear unit property books and inventory every piece of equipment, Reese said.

The operation took two years, and even after that, there were errors and gaps that needed to be addressed, Reese said. A task force formed to examine the issue led to the current Campaign on Property Accountability, which became official in July 2010.

The campaign, which was updated in April, outlines a series of metrics and goals each Army command must meet, and the Army G-4 receives quarterly reports from the field, Reese said.

"We now have eight quarters of data to see how the Army is doing," she said.

That includes tracking how much equipment is being recorded, how long it's taking for units to investigate equipment that is unaccounted for, how much equipment is being transferred from one unit to another, and whether the proper paperwork and documentation is being completed.

The logisticians at U.S. Army Europe have been working on the campaign for two years.

"Just looking at the simple coding of equipment, we saw tens of thousands of coding errors," said David Cable, senior supply analyst for the command's G-4.

But correcting the codes and painstakingly accounting for every piece of equipment by line-item number has allowed USAREUR to correctly report readiness, move equipment to the proper categories, and identify shortages and excesses, Cable said.

"It's a huge in-house cleaning, if you will," he said. "Every time there's a major war, the Army goes through this sort of self-healing process as dwell times increase."

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