Army Gen. Dennis Via leads the Army Materiel Command, the organization responsible for equipping and supporting and materiel development for soldiers around the world. He took command in August. (ASC Public Affairs)
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Army Gen. Dennis Via leads the Army Materiel Command, the organization responsible for equipping and supporting and materiel development for soldiers around the world. He took command in August.
Here are excerpts from his interview with Army Times:
Q. What do you see as the key things to tackle in this role?
A. My first part is to make sure we remain a responsive command to the needs of deployed soldiers, those brigade combat teams serving at war right now. Being able to make sure our command stays focused — that is our primary responsibility, and we can never not meet their requirements.
I think second is beginning to set successful conditions with transition. We are retrograding equipment out of Afghanistan even as we are fighting. We have got a tremendous organic industrial base, and that is our depots and arsenals and ammunition plants that we have throughout the United States. About 20 one-of-a-kind type facilities that have second- and third-generation artisans who are very skilled at what they do. We have to preserve that capability because it is truly the centerpiece of Army readiness. These depots are not the depots pre-9/11. They have now become the benchmark for industry, and the capabilities they deliver today [are] absolutely tremendous. We want to make sure that we preserve that base as we begin to face our fiscal challenges as we look to the future.
We are looking at many ways to do that. One, of course, [is] resetting the equipment. Second, continue to work foreign military sales. As we continue to build upon FMS, we think we will be able to continue to bring workload, if you will, to the organic industrial base and be able to preserve those skill sets as we go to this next period.
Q. Two battalions' worth of gear is going to be based in Europe training purposes. What is it going to take to pull that one off?
A. On 1 October, the director of logistics, the 73 directorates of logistics, which originally were under INCOM — the Installation Management Command — are lying under AMC. With this added capability of the professional DOL workforce, which is soldiers, civilians and contractors that have provided installation logistic support and supply services and transportation, we now can extend our capabilities from our industrial base — from the depots all the way down to the installation level now. In training sets there in Europe, training sets at the national training center, we are positioned to be able to do that, both in terms of the personnel and assets that we have, and contracting vehicles to be able to do that as required.
We also have the structure in place for our commanders and so we have what is called the Army Field Support Brigades. Those are regionally aligned with the combatant commands. We have one in Europe. That commander will work with the installation commander or the senior mission commander or the garrison commander to ensure that they meet the requirements for those sets.
Q. Army planners have expressed concern about future conflicts, advising that there is a problem in future logistics. You are not going into ports, airfield restrictions, things of that nature. You know, the old adage is, "You might not have a Kuwait in Saudi Arabia the next time."
A. We have always had capabilities to deploy to undeveloped, austere areas, and be able to go in and do port opening operations working with the combatant commands, airfields — expanding those airfields to be able to deliver logistics from that standpoint. Some of those skill sets and training we will have to return to because we have been in a position where we have continued to improve the foxhole, continued to improve the forward operating bases that we have had. What you see now in Afghanistan, at some of our forward operating bases, and what you saw in Iraq at the end of Operation New Dawn, was a result of many years of investments and units rotating and continuing to do improvements and infrastructure, power, communications, the logistics hubs.
We have to go back and leverage how we train toward that, and that will be part of what we will do at the training center with the rotations. We align with the brigade combat teams as they rotate in. We will leverage some of the commands that are in place — the theater sustainment commands, our expeditionary sustainment commands, our sustainment brigades that are within the divisions. And that is the capability we will have to begin to train toward so that when units do deploy to an austere environment, just as we did when we began in Afghanistan, we had to begin to build those capabilities. If it is early-entry or forced-entry type operations — our Army has done that. We will have to go back to doing some of those things.
Q. With the new regional alignment, it is pretty much Army-wide that all of your folks are going to have to have an expeditionary mindset no matter where they are trained to. Is that correct?
A. Yes. I think an expeditionary mindset is key, and I think AMC is postured to be able to support that. With the way that our forces are regionally aligned already, we have those Army field support brigades. So they are in those regions. They are working, and that helps in terms of working with other armies. It helps also with interoperability with our systems.
Q. What kind of work are you doing on the amphibious side?
A. Working with the J-4s within the combatant commands, working the joint staff, working with our [Defense Logistics Agency] partners, working with U.S. Transportation Command. If there is opportunity to position assets afloat, we want to meet the need of joint warfare, and we want to use every opportunity, every available resource to be able to do that.
Q. Well, Haiti, parking a carrier off the coast is a great example.
A. Right. And we have done that before. We have had Army helicopters aboard Navy ships, when we have gone in for operations before. The bottom line is, we want to leverage every capability and resource available to be able to meet the need of those deployed BCTs as they are working in conjunction with the combatant commanders' requirements and parties.
Q. What is your long-term view on establishing sustainment, especially operational-based sustainment and different categories — foreign space logistics, condition-based maintenance — whatever the case might be?
A. We want to leverage condition-based maintenance. We have done that clearly with our aviation and that has gone very, very well. And I think we are looking at opportunities and where we can leverage that on other platforms that we have, some of our ground platforms. We now have the flexibility to be able to balance the work loading and balance capabilities on a regional basis, which I think is going to improve. It is going to be more cost-effective from that standpoint. It is going to be more efficient. And I think it is going to increase our readiness rates in terms of being able to be responsive to sustain equipment.
We have to look at our CLS — contractual logistics support — how we need to rebalance and what we are maintaining under contracts and what we will maintain with what we call unit-maintained equipment, or using our soldiers and the skill sets of what they can maintain. We know at some point in time that will begin to decline and so we want to make sure that we are proactive and not reactive when that time comes.
Q. You mentioned with condition-based maintenance some possibilities of moving it to the ground side. Do you have any examples of what you are looking at? Any timelines?
A. This is something that … we will entertain as we look to determine how we can be more efficient and how we are sustaining our systems. Clearly through aviation, it has been an enormous success. An enormous cost savings that we have seen from that standpoint. So the potential is there for the ground fleet, but we have to look at, of course, how we would best implement that and what we would see.
Q. With the established cuts that we already know are coming, can you quantify what that is going to mean to AMC?
A. No, not at this point. I think we are being funded at what we need to be able to meet our mission right now.
Q. Do you think that will change when [overseas contingency operations] funding goes away?
A. With OCO funding, we all know that that will have some impact. But I think we also will look to see what we will move from OCO to base. We will look to see where, in fact, we will make that shift from OCO to place that into our base budget. I think we will be successful in being able to meet those requirements, as well.
Q. I know a lot of folks in Congress are saying that OCO will need to continue for two to three years after the 2014 withdrawal. How critical is that for AMC to be able to make that transition?
A. After the end of combat operations, we are going to need OCO because that equipment will continue to be retrograded. We just cannot all reset it in a very, very short period of time. We will need OCO two to three years after. We are trying to quantify exactly what that would be, and we are working to make sure that we are being wise and how we are using it.