PS Magazine’s MSG Half-Mast recently had the opportunity to sit down with GEN Gus Perna, chief operating officer (COO) of Operation Warp Speed and recently-departed commander of Army Materiel Command, to discuss his views on Army readiness. A graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy and the University of Maryland, GEN Perna previously spent two years as the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4. His other command assignments include Joint Munitions Command and Joint Munitions and Lethality Lifecycle Management Command; Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Defense Logistics Agency; 4th Sustainment Brigade; 64th Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and 64th Corps Support Group, 13th Corps Support Command. As COO of Operation Warp Speed, he serves as the effort's co-leader and oversees the complex logistics needed to manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021.
Sir, thank you for taking time for this interview. Let me start by asking: what is your definition of readiness, and as you look out across the AMC enterprise, what is the best way to accurately gauge readiness?
GEN Perna: For the last several years, the Army has been focused on building tactical readiness, ensuring our Soldiers have the necessary skills, training and equipment to fight and win on the modern battlefield anytime, anywhere. AMC has a critical role in building and delivering Army tactical readiness by ensuring our Soldiers have the weapons to fire, tanks to drive, food to eat and the logistics support to ensure those necessities get to the right place at the right time.
While our combat troops have always been the foundation of our Army, our strategic advantage has been our ability to mobilize, deploy and sustain our force – what Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville has described as strategic readiness. Mobilizing, deploying and sustaining a globally-engaged Army requires synchronization and integration across the entire materiel enterprise to effectively move troops and equipment at scale and speed.
Strategic readiness begins at our installations, key power projection platforms where Soldiers live, train, conduct the day-to-day business of the Army, mobilize and deploy from. We are working hard to ensure that our ranges, motor pools, railheads, living quarters, child care centers and other facilities are modernized and provide the level of support that Soldiers and their families need and deserve.
Another element of strategic readiness is the forward positioning of equipment, munitions and materiel which eases strategic lift requirements for units deploying from the U.S., and reduces costs associated with permanently basing large forces overseas. Army Prepositioned Stocks serve as a strategic deterrent and provide combatant commanders with the combat equipment required to rapidly respond to any contingency in support of the National Defense Strategy.
From mobilization operations and deployment, to sustainment in the field and redeployment, every AMC team member – Soldiers, civilians, contractors and our family members – has a significant role in building and delivering Army tactical, operational and strategic readiness at home and abroad.
Under the Multi-Domain Operations concept, AMC is responsible for the readiness of the Strategic Support Area. Can you explain what this is and why it is significant?
GEN Perna: Multi-Domain Operations is what will guide the Army and drive the modernization of our force structure, equipment and facilities through 2035. Under the MDO concept, Army Materiel Command is responsible for readiness of the Strategic Support Area, where military might is generated, projected worldwide, and sustained during the fight. The SSA is not confined to the U.S. It is wherever we support the fight. The SSA links our installations, depots, arsenals, ammunition plants, logistics support areas and other key logistics and support infrastructure to warfighters on the battlefield around the world.
AMC has identified seven focus areas to build and maintain readiness of the SSA: Soldier, Civilian and Family Readiness; Installation Readiness; Industrial Base Readiness; Munitions Readiness; Strategic Power Projection Readiness; Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness; and Logistics Information Readiness. AMC is focusing the critical resources of the materiel enterprise on these key areas, with initiatives ranging from infrastructure upgrades to energy independence on installations, and from modernizing organic industrial base facilities to improving the ability to overhaul and maintain current and next-generation weapon systems.
Critical to enabling readiness is the ability to see ourselves across the entire AMC enterprise, including equipment, facilities and people. To do this we need Information Age solutions, such as data from the Logistics Data Analysis Center to help commanders make informed, real-time decisions. We cannot rely on Industrial Age processes and systems to deliver Army readiness. We must ensure our resources – not just funding, but time, people and infrastructure – are aligned and precisely executed to build readiness today and in the future.
The Army and AMC have undergone some significant changes during the last four years. What do you consider as AMC's major accomplishments and readiness contributions during your time as commander?
GEN Perna: We have made great strides in operationalizing the command and synchronizing capabilities across our major subordinate organizations. Our workforce – 190,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors – has much to be proud of. We have improved supply availability and equipment on hand readiness rates. We have divested millions of pieces of equipment, unburdening units. We have leveraged data analytics to better see ourselves and make real-time, informed decisions. Within every AMC organization, the workforce has improved installation and materiel readiness in real, tangible ways.
Probably most visibly to the rest of the Army is the re-structuring of commands to better posture AMC as the single organization responsible for readiness of the SSA. The addition of Installation Management Command, Army Medical Logistics Command and Financial Management Command rounded out the enterprise’s collective capabilities to deliver tactical and strategic readiness across the SSA.
What advice or message would you give to Soldiers and junior leaders about how they can each positively affect Army readiness?
GEN Perna: It is simple: commit every day to upholding standards and discipline.
In addition to taking responsibility for their individual personal readiness, every Soldier needs to take pride in their job, workspace and the equipment entrusted to them. From weapon systems to computers, they must ensure they conduct the routine and scheduled maintenance to keep their tools ready and in working order and treat their assigned weapon, vehicle and all other gear as they would their personal belongings, if not better. Upholding standards and discipline at the individual level will increase readiness within their unit, and ultimately, across the Army.