AUSA NEWS: Army Using Big Data to Make Divestiture List
Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jeron Walker
The Army is using powerful new computers to crunch data so it can better decide the optimum time to get rid of aging platforms such as tactical wheeled vehicles and other equipment.
There is an ongoing study looking at actual maintenance costs of individual types of equipment over periods of time so the Army can know what the right duration is for a system, said Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.
“Our systems aren't like a car where it kind of wears out after a while. And that's kind of it. If you want a new feature, you buy a new car,” he told reporters after a speech at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference, which was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of our vehicles, and almost all of our equipment is evolvable to a significant degree.”
The data the Army is collecting and crunching is helping the service understand the relationship between when a vehicle is truly is no longer maintainable, and when it is cost effective to continue evolving them, he said.
“What we're doing now is putting real hard data behind it because frankly, the advancement in some of our computing capabilities is now allowing it,” he added.
The model is starting with Humvees simply because the Army has a lot of them and therefore, a lot of maintenance data available, he said.
The model will give the Army deeper understanding of the year-to-year costs of operations and maintenance.
“If I buy a Humvee this year, how much on the first year will I spend on maintaining it? How much will I spend on driving it? How does that change in the second year, third year, fourth year, etc.," he said.
“When does it make the most sense to rebuild them? At what point does it make no sense to rebuild them, but instead just to go ahead and absorb the increased expense of repair or instead replace them?” Jette said.
Meanwhile, the West Point military academy is helping put together a separate costing model where the data can be applied to different platforms and equipment, he said. The model will give pricing and ownership figures for the fleets and equipment.
The West Point costing model is generic and can be applied to any platform, he said. “It's also useful for building a truck model and a tank model and a Bradley model … so it just becomes a building block that we feed data into, and it gives us an ability to see the cost model over time.”
The Army has “had a lot of innovative and aggressive people” who laid the groundwork by collecting logistics data and putting them into sets, Jette said.
“The trouble is that it's a little bit of a thousand flowers blooming,” he added. Capturing that data and putting it in a coherent fashion where it can be applied “has been a bit of a challenge."