Casey: New DOD Regulation Could Imperil Work At Tobyhanna, Letterkenny - In Letter to Defense Secretary, Casey Calls for Immediate Clarification

New Rule Could Limit Equipment PA Depots Are Authorized to Work On

Senator Asks Pentagon to Ensure Any New Policy Protects PA Depots

WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking for immediate clarification of a proposed Defense Department rule that could imperil operations at Tobyhanna and Letterkenny. The rule could limit the types of equipment that depots like Tobyhanna and Letterkenny can work on, thereby endangering the depots’ mission and workforce.

“Pennsylvania’s Army depots are among the best in the country, but this new rule could weaken operations at Tobyhanna and Letterkenny,” Senator Casey said. “The men and women who work at our depots are among the most skilled workers in the country. The Defense Department should immediately clarify this rule to ensure Tobyhanna and Letterkenny are protected.”

On April 5th, the Defense Department issued ‘guidance’ that could hinder the amount and type of equipment that depots like Tobyhanna and Letterkenny can work on. If the Pentagon doesn’t clarify their initial guidance to protect Pennsylvania’s army depots then workloads and workforces at Tobyhanna and Letterkenny could be imperiled.

In his letter asking the Defense Department to immediately clarify this new ruling, Senator Casey wrote, “The quality and skills of the women and men who work at our depots are remarkable.  I have visited and kept in continuous contact with Tobyhanna and Letterkenny and believe that these depots provide a valuable service to the military and should be utilized further.  Any interpretation that excludes depots from work for which they are qualified should be avoided.”

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter to Secretary Panetta can be seen below:

The Honorable Leon Panetta

Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of the Army

1300 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1300

Dear Secretary Panetta:

It has come to my attention that newly issued guidance for determining equipment eligible for depot maintenance may adversely impact the amount of equipment depots once worked on.   As you are aware, with the end of combat in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, the workload increases that depots have experienced over the past decade will be hard to sustain.  Nevertheless, significant opportunities for workload exist in the reset of equipment coming back from theater.

I am concerned that the April 5, 2012 guidance issued by Acting Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall may hinder this and future workload prospects.  Therefore, I would respectively request clarity on the interpretation that the Under Secretary provided to the Service Secretaries.  Specifically, I would like responses to the following questions:

  • Why does the Department believe that the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics is the appropriate person to make a determination on whether an item or items are eligible for depot maintenance?
  • The Department’s interpretation of language included in the FY’2012 National Defense Authorization Act deems that any modifications to equipment that is designed to enhance performance or add functionality will no longer be considered work done by depots.   It is my understanding that depots, especially those that work on communication equipment, have regularly provided safety maintenance and upgrades that also adds functionality.  Please provide your understanding of whether safety modifications that add functionality will be excluded from depot maintenance.  If you believe that safety modifications should be excluded, please explain why.
  • The guidance issued to the Service Secretaries states that “relative to establishing capability no later than 4 years after initial operation capability (IOC+4) or fielding in support of operation, if a program has an official IOC, core depot maintenance ability should be established consistent with the IOC+4 requirement. If a program does not have an IOC, the associated weapon system is considered “fielded” at the time when, as part of combined or individual operation, it provides a warfighting capability unless a waiver has been granted based on a determination that the system is not an enduring part of national defense.”
  • What polices and processes does the Department of the Army plan to develop to review weapons, weapon systems and components for inclusion in core and establishment of core if they have been fielded or exceeded the 4 years outlined in the interpretation?
  • It is my understanding that there is no formal definition of what “non-enduring element of national defense” means in this context.  What is the Army’s criterion for determining whether a weapon is a “non-enduring element of national defense”?  Will the criteria be the same for all Services?
  • Based on the Department definition of “non-enduring element of national defense,” are there weapons and associated components that are fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Army may consider non-enduring, but will remain a part of the Army’s inventory? If so, why are they considered non-enduring and ineligible for depot maintenance?
  • The guidance also provides the Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics the authority to issue blank waivers. 
  • How many weapons does the Department believe falls under the waiver authority (10 U.S.C. § 2464(b)(1)(A) listed in the guidance?
  • Is there any limit on how many items would fall under a blanket waiver?
  • Will systems that have been fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but have not been established as core in depots, be considered for waivers?  If so, what process will the Army use to determine which items should be waivered?  Will the Army based their determinations on the MOTE?
  • Are there items not on the MOTE that will continue to be in the Army’s inventory for years to come?  How are items determined to be included or excluded from the MOTE?

The quality and skills of the women and men who work at our depots are remarkable.  I have visited and kept in continuous contact with Tobyhanna and Letterkenny and believe that these depots provide a valuable service to the military and should be utilized further.  Any interpretation that excludes depots from work for which they are qualified should be avoided.  As such, I respectfully request a meeting with the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Technology and Logistics Ms. Heidi Shyu who, as outlined in the guidance, would play a key role in determining how the guidance will be implemented.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact my staff at 202-224-6324.  I look forward to working with you and the Army on this issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senate

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