To improve accountability and accuracy throughout the equipment fielding process, all program managers and program executive offices are now required to use the same property accountability system that tactical units use.
The acquisition community has come a long way in implementing and institutionalizing innovative and agile acquisition and sustainment initiatives to improve the fielding of equipment to the warfighter. While much progress has been made with the use of information technology to facilitate rapid distribution, the materiel fielding process continues to be burdened with an in-transit document closure weakness and an inefficient end-to-end audit trail. These shortcomings have led to the accountability loss of 1.45 billion dollars' worth of major items.
Total Package Fielding
The Army uses the Total Package Fielding (TPF) process to ensure that units are provided with fully supportable materiel systems with minimal disruption to the unit’s day-to-day missions. TPF minimizes the workload associated with the fielding of a new system. It requires the materiel developer and the fielding command to determine all requirements up front, fund and requisition nearly all needed equipment, consolidate support items into unit-level packages, and coordinate the distribution of the major system, the associated support items of equipment, and support packages to a central staging site or to the gaining unit itself.
Two hybrids of the TPF process, Rapid Equipping Force (REF) and Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), are Army initiatives developed to bridge capability gaps outside the traditional acquisition cycle and successfully combat an adaptive enemy in wartime. Supported through significant amounts of Global War on Terrorism supplemental funding, REF and RFI expeditiously provide necessary equipment to operational commanders. The Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE) system provides the missing accountability and asset visibility requirement for these initiatives.
Problems With the Existing Process
During the existing materiel fielding process, the fielding command provides a tailored customer documentation package to each gaining unit. This package is provided at the time of handoff and allows the unit to establish property accountability and post a receipt for the TPF materiel. The transactions documented in the package are tailored to the specific supply system in use at the unit. Processing instructions are provided with each package, and personal assistance may be available when requested. The fielding command also provides a shortage list and the documentation needed to establish a due-in for all items not provided in the handoff.
Each unit can choose one of three types of media for receiving their documentation package: hard copy, compact disc, or digital video disc. This process leaves the door open for equipment losses, noncompliance and misstatements in financial records, and poor property accountability procedures at the tactical level.
RFI property sometimes is distributed to individual Soldiers without unit supply representatives present and without immediate certainty of the exact unit of assignment. Most often, this occurs when replacement personnel are deployed into theater after a unit deployment. Moreover, the lack of an automated system interface between the acquisition community and tactical units causes a significant portion of the in-transit records displayed in the Logistics Support Activity’s (LOGSA’s) Logistics Information Warehouse (LIW) to be invalid.
Equipment being sent to a fielding team should be packaged for issue to a single unit, but in some cases multiple units’ equipment is being packaged and shipped instead. The Army G–4 and auditors cannot recognize that the equipment is intended for multiple units when the transactions state that the equipment is to be issued to a single unit. The equipment involved is received and reported as “on hand” by the receiving units, but the receipt transactions do not close out the shipment records because the unit document does not match the shipping document. As a result, the Army does not have reliable data about the value of in-transit equipment, so the value of in-transit equipment reported in the Army’s financial statements is inaccurate.
Mandating the Use of PBUSE
PBUSE is the Army’s first web-based logistics property accountability system. PBUSE provides a responsive and efficient means to maintain accountable records for the Army’s inventory of property for over 14,855 users in modification table of organization and equipment and table of distribution and allowances units in the Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve. PBUSE interfaces with several other critical logistics systems, including LOGSA LIW, the Standard Army Retail Supply System, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Corporate Database, the Army War Reserve Deployment System, the General Funds Enterprise Business System, the Central Issue Facility-Installation Support Module, the Worldwide Ammunition Reporting System, and Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier’s fielding application. PBUSE feeds critical management and financial data to these systems on a real-time basis.
In January 2007, in response to demands from the field to facilitate the fielding of materiel more accurately and efficiently, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology) (ASA[ALT]) and the Army G–4 mandated that all PEOs and program managers (PMs) use PBUSE instead of stand-alone spreadsheets to field equipment. The Army G–4 Supply Policy Division and the ASA (ALT), working with PM Logistics Information Systems (LIS) and the PBUSE lead system integrator, created the blueprints for executing the assessment, approval, and implementation of the requirement. Recognizing the benefits that PBUSE had brought to the field command, the ASA(ALT) and the Army G–4 directed PEO Enterprise Information Systems to test PBUSE at PEO Soldier.
|Soldiers assemble at a staging site and wait to be issued equipment.
PEO Soldier’s Challenge and Results
PEO Soldier has been fielding materiel as part of RFI for several years. PEO Soldier was created by the Army with one primary purpose: to develop the best equipment and field it as quickly as possible so that Soldiers remain second to none in missions that span the full spectrum of military operations. Under PEO Soldier, the Army’s RFI is intended to respond quickly to current individual Soldier equipment requirements and to provide Soldiers engaged in or preparing for operations with state-of-the-art individual equipment, including weapons accessories, organizational clothing and individual equipment, target locators, improved first aid kits, and a variety of other personal gear.
High-volume PEO Soldier materiel distributions resulted in a tremendous amount of additional work for the gaining commands. Equipment fieldings were accomplished using a time-consuming manual process that left the property book officers (PBOs) to update their property book records using irregular accounting practices.
An interface between PEO Soldier’s fielding system and PBUSE was established to provide an automated means of transferring accounting information. The interface eliminates the need for “hand-jamming” thousands of asset records and serial numbers into PBUSE and automates the lateral transfer process.
PEO Soldier benefited tremendously by transferring its assets from its fielding application directly to the field’s gaining PBOs. This was done through a universal extensible markup language (XML) interface. The successful implementation of the web-based application quickly drew considerable attention. Based on the success of this initiative, the ASA(ALT) directed the 12 other Army PEOs to employ PBUSE by 31 March 2009. Working with the PBUSE lead system integrator, PM LIS worked diligently to meet the ASA(ALT)’s intent.
|Soldiers are issued their organizational clothing and individual equipment, which comprise the minimum essential items a Soldier requires on the battlefield.
The objective is to laterally transfer PEOs’ and PMs’ materiel fielding equipment records from their individual spreadsheets and fielding applications to PBUSE, where they would establish accountable records for their equipment at the beginning of the materiel fielding process (during procurement or acceptance of Department of Defense Form 250, Material Inspection and Receiving Report). Establishing accountable records in PBUSE does not mean that a PBO assumes the responsibilities of the PEO or PM. Before the lateral transfer occurs, accountability of equipment still remains with the PEO or PM. Because PBUSE is a web-based application, the PEOs and PMs are not required to have any additional hardware. They use their existing hardware and have access to the PBUSE functions that pertain to their operations.
Benefits of Completing the Initiative
The PBUSE initiative has four benefits. First, it enables Army-wide visibility of equipment status by any organization with access to the LOGSA LIW or PBUSE at the beginning of the materiel fielding process. Second, PEOs and PMs will be using the same system that tactical units use to account for and track their equipment. Third, using a common software system will reduce stovepipe operations, duplication, and the associated training overhead and maintenance costs. Finally, lateral transfers of equipment to units can be done electronically instead of having to rely completely on hardcopy Department of the Army Forms 2062, Hand Receipt and Annex, and 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-In.
The PBUSE XML interface for the PEOs’ unique systems will automate the processing of three different types of transactions that add or transfer data to PBUSE. All processes will start with the PEO system generating a file containing the transaction data that will then be uploaded into the PBUSE enterprise server. PBUSE will then process transactions based on the data provided in the file. The three types of transactions are asset adjustment, serial/registration/lot update, and lateral transfer.
The asset adjustment transaction will be used to increase the on-hand quantity of assets for the unit identification code that represents the PEO or PM in PBUSE. Serial numbers will also be provided if they are available, but they are not required.
The serial/registration/lot update transaction will be used to add serial numbers to assets that have been added previously to PBUSE.
The lateral transfer transaction will enable PEOs to create an electronic issue document when the specified quantities and serial numbers of equipment are fielded. Through the automated functions within the PBUSE software, the gaining PBO is automatically sent an email alerting him to the equipment issue before the transaction actually happens. The PBUSE software then provides the PEO with the PBO’s email address, to which the PEO sends the issue document and thus completes the transfer.
The defense acquisition system will benefit from PBUSE. Equipment will be handed over to gaining units more efficiently. Systems will be in the warfighters’ hands more quickly. PBUSE will enable total asset visibility using a Standard Army Management Information System. PEOs and PMs will field equipment using the same system that the tactical units use, thereby improving accuracy and accountability throughout the life-cycle process, which includes funding, distribution, fielding equipment, and unit status reporting benefited industry.
Pablo A. Brown is an acquisition specialist in the Office of the Project Manager, Logistics Information Systems, Product Director, Tactical Logistics Systems, where he is the project officer for the Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced. He holds a master’s degree in organizational management from Phoenix University and a bachelor's degree in business administration from Liberty University. He is level II certified in program management, level II certified in information technology, and level I certified in life-cycle logistics.
John E. Laudan is a systems acquisition specialist at the Office of the Project Manager, Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-Army). At the time this article was written, he worked for the Office of the Project Manager, Logistics Information Systems. He holds a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University and a bachelor's degree in history from Canisius College. He is level III certified in program management and level III certified in testing and evaluation.