CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The findings of a September 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlight the incredible difficulty of conducting audits and equipment accountability for each branch of the military. Since first attempting a full-scale audit in 2008, the Marine Corps has continually made progress and leads the other services in refining the accountability process. Now, as the Corps begins implementation of the Global Combat Support System Marine Corps (GCSS-MC), accountability and financial management stand poised to improve substantially.
Service in a decade of war has placed the Marine Corps in a position where equipment reconciliation is an ominous task. Commanders have often relied on expedited purchasing processes to procure operational equipment, sometimes circumventing established procedures. As such, an influx of non-standardized equipment has flowed into the Marine Corps' maintenance system. These items, unsupported by established procedures, must now be reconciled with maintenance contracts. GCSS aims to rectify the Corps' situation.
Before GCSS-MC, the Marine Corps used several programs and systems to manage supply, maintenance, financial requisitions, payments, transfers and accountability of all of its gear.
“We needed these different systems to do different things because there was not one system that did it all,” said Capt. Julian Tsukano, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) supply officer. “As a supply, we had to manage each of the [old] systems differently because they did not talk to each other perfectly,” said Tsukano. “For example, let’s say a Marine here at the 11th MEU needed to order something, let’s say a widget. Now, let’s say that same part was next door at the 13th MEU. There was no way that the 11th MEU, unless we physically walked over and talked to the 13th MEU, would have known that they had an extra part sitting right here. So what was happening was that a Marine from the 11th MEU would order a part and then it would go all the way up to the powers-that-be in the supply system, get ordered, and come back when that part was next door all along. So you could just imagine the potential efficiency that could be gained from this new system.”
According to the Marine Corps Systems Command website, “GCSS-MC will enable streamlined processes and provide accurate, near-real-time visibility of data using a web-based system. The resulting enterprise-wide visibility of data will allow logistics planners and operators to make decisions about their supply chain based on reliable information.”
"So what’s going to happen is when you order something through GCSS Marine Corps there’s an instantaneous computation done in the system. It’s absolutely instantaneous,” said Tsukano. “So you will know if what you are looking to order is on hand and where it is on hand at.”
GCSS-MC is set to be a powerful tool, but it can only be as good as the information that is inputted into the actual system.
“To make sure that everyone cuts over correctly and puts everything in correctly, we have this thing called the Field Supply Maintenance Analysis Office (FSMAO) inspection,” said Tsukano.
“This inspection was really good because we were able to deal with the duty experts who made sure that everything that we need to be successful with the implementation of the new system goes smoothly. The only way this system will work is if the data in the system is 100 percent accurate and this inspection was a great tool to making sure we make that happen,” he added.
The inspection team also looked at the logistics and communications sections to make sure that their gear was fully operational and accounted for as well.
“Going into the inspection, the S4 (Logistics) section expected to do well. For the last few months, upon return from WESTPAC 11-2 in June, the Marines began a detailed internal inspection program and administrative review,” said Capt. Kirk Johnson, assistant logistics officer for the 11th MEU. “The command further hoped to receive detailed, subject matter expert (SME) training by the inspectors to our junior Marines who are bearing a lot of responsibility for the ranks they wear on their collars. The solid, mentor-student relationship between the inspectors and our Marines was crucial to this end. These efforts will further set the command up for success when we transition over to the GCSS-MC as our files and processes will allow for a smooth transition. GCSS should allow near real time statuses on repair parts ordered within the supply system; a great system similar in design to those utilized by many fortune 500 companies for years.”
In 2010, III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was the first unit to start cutting over to GCSS-MC. II MEF starting implementing the system the following year. Progress has been slow and steady. One of the big challenges is that many units are deployed, so those units will not be able to cutover until they return from deployment.
“Another issue is that, literally, doing GCSS is like another MOS. I mean we are not even teaching GCSS in MOS school. So we are getting Marines to the fleet who have never touched GCSS so we have to train them and essentially give them a brand new way of doing business. So the biggest challenge really is just training for the new Marines and the Marines already in the field and getting really familiar with the new system,” said Tsukano.
There will be some challenges throughout the next couple of years as the Marine Corps implements the new system, but in the end, it will be a win for accountability and maintenance of gear, and the productivity of the Marines.