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Dr. Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology of the U.S. Army, explains why transformation, as opposed to just modernization, is necessary for the Army’s supply chain

The Army plans to transform its ammunition facilities over the next 15 years. Dr. Bruce Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, spoke with “Government Matters” about the planned overhaul and how the coronavirus has impacted the Army’s supply chain.

The transformation of the World War II-era ammo plants comes after two people died while working with ammunition. Jette said modernization has taken place since the 1940s but that the updates were an “incremental approach” to ensuring safety and that more is needed.

“Modernization has been essentially taking those things which we knew were safe, determining those things which were less safe or not productive, trying to refine them, improve them, eliminate risk from the system,” he said. “The problem with that was that it was walking down a very straight path without looking at the opportunities to the left and right.”

Jette told reporters at the AUSA 2020 conference that parts of the 15-year overhaul of the facilities will begin next year.

“We need to take an entirely different look at this because the old ways may be as refined as they can be, [but] we need new ways so that we can improve the productivity and enhance the safety of the workforce,” Jette said.

He said the Army can ensure safety by utilizing equipment to perform tasks with energetics that individuals currently perform.

The force also plans to revitalize its supply chain in the coming years. Jette said the coronavirus has brought to light some of the supply chain’s inefficiencies.

“The pandemic has given us a chance to take a look at the supply chain,” he said. “We have a lot of things to do in the Pentagon, in the Army, in the acquisition community, and sometimes you have to wait until the wheel squeaks before you start paying attention to it.”

Jette mentioned that while the supply chain in general was working well, the pandemic highlighted areas that could be more robust or capable. He said some smaller suppliers were especially impacted by the virus.

“One person [testing positive for the coronavirus] in a company of 20 people causes most of the workforce to have a 14-day isolation. That stops the company’s production,” Jette said. He mentioned delays from one coronavirus case in a small company could be up to 30 days, which then causes delays through the rest of the supply chain.

“We’ve looked back at that and said, ‘we need to look transformationally at even our supply chain,’” he said.

He said when reviewing the supply network, the Army should consider the strength of the supply chain and identify weak points. Jette also said the Army can consider whether it can replace specifically-made items with more readily available comparable alternatives.

Another of the Army’s priorities is category management. Lisa Hershman said on “Government Matters” that people in the Pentagon were initially skeptical of category management, but they have since begun to embrace it.

The Army has implemented six categories, including information technology, transportational logistics, medical, professional services, facilities and construction. Jette said category management allowed the Army to bring together its 65 cloud contracts into one contract and improve procurement and proficiency.

“Certainly category management is an area that the Army has moved aggressively towards,” Jette said.

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