By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 28, 2021) -- The Defense Department's organic industrial base -- which includes things such as maintenance depots, shipyards, fleet readiness centers, air logistics centers and manufacturing arsenals -- needs to be modernized and updated in order to keep serving America's warfighter. The department has a plan to make that happen, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment said today.
"At present, the [organic industrial base] continues to fully support warfighter requirements, but also faces a number of challenges including the ongoing effects of COVID-19, aging infrastructure and equipment, workforce development and retention, supply chain instability and the need to balance sustainment requirements of new and legacy systems," Steven J. Morani told the House Armed Services Committee. "The department is taking action to address these challenges."
He said some of those efforts include ensuring that measures are in place to protect the workforce while continuing to meet production schedules, a $241 million investment in maintenance technologies, and supply chain risk assessments.
The department has also issued policies for the integration of new capabilities -- such as condition-based maintenance plus, additive manufacturing, intermittent fault detection, and robotics, Morani said. One example of the use of robotics to enhance capability of the organic industrial base is at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Georgia.
"There is some tremendous work going on at Warner Robins," Morani said. "Warner Robins is actually leading the department when it comes to implementation of robotics. They have right now over 40 robotic machines that are ... taking the place of the human. They're increasing productivity; they're increasing quality; they're increasing health and safety."
The department also has a working group, the Joint Robotics Organization for Building Organic Technologies, to further the use of robotics in the organic industrial base, or OIB, and also has a policy in place now for how it will implement and use robotic systems for manufacturing and sustainment. Morani said it's the first policy of its kind in the department.
The department's strategy to rebuild and strengthen the OIB has four main strategic areas of focus, Morani said. Those include revitalizing the OIB infrastructure, improving equipment modernization of the OIB, developing and supporting the OIB workforce, and continuous assessment and reporting.
"Focusing on these areas and continuously improving will provide a future OIB that is safe and properly sized, with modernized facilities and equipment, and supported by a highly competent and innovative workforce," he said. "Each area also has metrics-based goals that are specific, realistic and measurable to determine the success of and compliance with the strategy."
Continued, stable and predictable funding is something the department needs to continue to modernize its OIB, Morani said.
"When we're in the continuing resolution ... we get no new starts -- so new contracts can't be let," he said. "That compounds, and then in the remaining fiscal year, the workforce that's available to put on contract, to sequence that work ... they're [on] compressed schedules, it compresses the work. So, again, it throws our planning out of synchronization. It doesn't allow us to fully execute in a fiscal year."