• The U.S. Army's organic industrial base helps equip the force with a wide range of equiment, including Stryker vehicles.
     The U.S. Army's organic industrial base helps equip the force with a wide range of equiment, including Stryker vehicles.

Not Your Mama’s Army Depot

August 4, 2016
By George I. Seffers
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The U.S. Army’s organic industrial base provides insurance against the modern threat.

The workload for the Army’s organic industrial base facilities—depots, arsenals and ammunition plants—is nearly the same as it was prior to conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The workload at these organic facilities is approaching pre-war levels. The Army’s organic industrial base continues to deliver records for the re-setting of communications-electronics equipment, rotary aircraft, Strykers, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and engineering equipment,” Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command, said during the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference taking place in Augusta, Georgia. The organic base also critical spare parts and produces ammunition—everything from 5,000-pound bombs to 9mm bullets.

The Army’s internal industry produces $29 billion in Army equipment and another $5.7 billion in equipment for the other services, the general reported. “That’s why I refer to the organic industrial base as a national security readiness insurance policy,” Gen. Via said. “Like the old homeowners insurance policy, you never know when you might need it. You want to know that when you do need it, that policy is enforced and the premium has been paid.”

He added that the service seeks to strike a balance between its internal production and outsourcing to private industry.

He singled out Tobyhanna Army Depot, which for more than 60 years has been building command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment. Tobyhanna is an Army center of excellence for C4ISR, electronics, avionics and missile guidance and control. The Air Force has designated Tobyhanna as its technical repair center for C4I and tactical missiles, and the Marine Corps has declared it the source of repair for their newest radar, Gen. Via said.

“Tobyhanna provides full spectrum logistics support to all services ranging from satellite terminals and radios to electro optics and airport surveillance equipment. In fact, 20 percent of the work performed is in support of non-Army customers,” he reported. Among other systems, the depot produces an optics sensor, which detects suspected improvised explosive devices from a safe distance for route clearance missions, he added.

“This is no longer your father’s depot. Or your mother’s depot. It is a phenomenal facility,” the general said.

The organic industrial base also supports the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which is on course to take in at least $18 billion in new business this year, Gen. Via said, adding that it resulted in $20 billion in sales the two previous years.

And C4ISR equipment makes up a fair portion of those sales, he indicated. “Aircraft and missile sales may garner the headlines, but the scope of this program is remarkably wide and diverse,” he said, highlighting sales to Ukraine and Jordan. Sales to Jordan included an integrated tactical communications system and a series of integrated radars, cameras and radios to “help Jordan cover its northern border with Syria,” he noted.

“FMS continues to reap record numbers yielding billions of dollars in new business and increasing the capacity and capabilities of our allies and interoperability with their armed forces,” he added.

However, the nations purchasing the equipment also want to know how to protect it in the cyber realm. “We can deliver them the systems that we operate, but they want to know how to protect those systems. Those are questions we all need to be involved in answering. There are no simple answers.”

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