Army logistics: changes ahead in force structure, maintenance.

Author:Erwin, Sandra I.

A panel of senior Army officials in charge of reforming the service's business practices concluded that up to 100,000 logistics-related jobs could be realigned, in order to free up soldiers for war-fighting duties.

In anticipation of personnel shortages in combat units around the world, the Army may consider a "reallocation of the force structure," said Maj. Gen. N. Ross Thompson III, who chaired the Army Logistics Transformation Task Force.

"We challenged the requirement for 100,000 logistics spaces," Thompson told National Defense. The Army, he said, is nor interested in downsizing the force, but rather in "transferring jobs" to high-priority areas such as infantry units, Stryker brigades and homeland defense functions.

Thompson cautioned that of the 100,000 positions identified, only 40,000 currently are filled. The other 60,000 are listed as required positions but have been vacant for years.

Most of the 40,000 slots that are funded are staffed by reserve units, said Thompson. He noted that 75 percent of the Army's logistics force is made up of reservists.

The task force proposal will be studied as part of the overarching "Total Army Analysis," he said. "We looked at the allocation of the force structure, and we are still looking at it."

Thompson, who heads the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, said the Army is under pressure to shift more soldiers to front-line positions. "We could get the job done with fewer people, but we have more requirements." Having 180,000 troops deployed around the world today, he said, "is really stretching the Army."

The manpower is a bigger issue in the Army than in other services, said Thompson. "We go in and stay for a long time, unlike the Marines."

The Logistics Transformation Task Force was made up of 15 hand-picked members, including representatives from the Reserves and the National Guard. The panel's final report was presented to the Army's chief of staff in August. The cost of the entire study project was less than $100,000. "It's not perfect. But it's a good effort," said Thompson. "We recognize that we cannot do Army transformation without logistics transformation"

Other recommendations by the task force focused on equipment maintenance. That is no small matter for the Army, which has $800 million to $1 billion worth of broken-down equipment worldwide.

The problem, said Thompson, is that "there are not enough resources to deal with spares that need to be repaired."

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