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Featured Interview: Wimpy Pybus and Roger Hamerlinck

Army Policymakers Discuss Their Vision for Corrosion Prevention

Wimpy D. Pybus
Wimpy D. Pybus

In January 2009, Wimpy D. Pybus became the Army’s first Corrosion Control and Prevention Executive. In his new capacity, Pybus coordinates Army headquarters-level corrosion control activities with the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, program executive officers, and relevant major subordinate commands. (See Military Departments Appoint Overseers of Corrosion Policy.)

A member of the Senior Executive Service since 1995, Pybus serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Policy and Logistics. In that role he oversees policy related to Army acquisition, industrial base, and integrated logistics support for Army weapon systems.

During an interview with Cynthia Greenwood, CorrDefense Editor at Large, on Nov. 12, 2009, Pybus and Senior Acquisition Policy Specialist Roger Hamerlinck discussed their priorities and visions related to corrosion prevention and control and how the Army is responding to recent cost of corrosion findings commissioned by the DoD Corrosion Prevention and Control Integrated Product Team.

CorrDefense: What does success look like from your new position? How will you go about measuring it?

Pybus: For the Army to attain true success, there would be no corrosion and no need to mitigate it. But this is an ideal that’s unrealistic and unaffordable from the viewpoint of the taxpayer. Realistically our definition of success would be to incorporate measures into the acquisition process so that corrosion prevention can be designed into affordable weapon systems and facilities based on their life span. These measures would be economical and have low investment costs compared to the cost of mitigating corrosion. The Army infrastructure, the Corps of Engineers, and our Installation and Management people have a really good approach to preventing corrosion on buildings and facilities. At Army headquarters now, we’re trying to provide some steerage, to give them a forum and serve as a point of contact on the Army staff.

Measuring success has to be within the art of the possible. It has to be something that we already have in place, because we’re not going to establish something here that is new and exciting and that costs a lot of money in order to measure how we’re doing. Success is going to be based on cost, readiness, and safety. The indicators of success are going to be inspection and maintenance reports that come into the database. That is a matter of discussion between LMI, the authors of the recent DoD cost of corrosion studies; us; and other military services. The Army, particularly, has some challenges, because when they go out and gather their data on corrosion, they’re looking for key words. Strict interpretation of what constitutes corrosion mitigation becomes an issue in the field. This is because you may have a young 18-year-old trainee, for instance, who’s recording the data, and for him, it’s not an exact science.

CorrDefense: What are your top three initial priorities as the Army’s corrosion prevention and control executive?

Pybus: First, we intend to identify and build on the functional teams that are already in place. I believe they all are passionate about their tasks, especially the Army’s many research and development teams, which include the Army Research Lab, AMRDEC [Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center], and TARDEC [Tank-Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center], among others. We’re in the process of assessing our policies and procedures to determine if there’s anything that contributes to our current corrosion performance or lack thereof. When issues arise that are matters of policy that don’t require additional resources, they are pretty easy to fix.

I’d love to be able to improve upon our method of reporting during the maintenance process. We have looked at this process, and quite candidly have begun overhauling the way we do our maintenance reporting. We may be able to make some tweaks that will improve things. I certainly have set a tough priority to take quick and decisive action on any corrosion-related actions that may reach our level. Keep in mind that our functional teams are watching out for problems that may arise, and any such issues are generally taken care of long before they reach our level.

Roger Hamerlinck
Roger Hamerlinck

CorrDefense: Do you see the facilities and combat systems approaches to mitigating corrosion within the Army as separate fronts or as a unified approach?

Hamerlinck: Organizationally they’re treated somewhat separately in that we have the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology and we have an Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment. They have separate policies, but when it comes to corrosion, there is very little difference. We both do research; we both procure and acquire items, and we have to maintain those items. Generally, facilities and combat systems are unified and integrated, but we do handle the organizational and policy items separately.

Pybus: We’ve agreed to bring the facilities and combat systems approaches together at our level. For example, the Army’s Installation and Management division doesn’t want to submit their facilities and building plans through me. However, they did agree to have our Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition appoint the Army’s corrosion executive because of the vast amount of money that the Army spends on weapons systems. In this office we have a direct view of all weapon systems plans, ongoing weapon system reviews, and milestone decision authorities. Between the Army acquisition executive, who is my boss, and me, we can keep our thumb on how well the Army is mitigating corrosion.

CorrDefense: Are there specific Army equipment platforms that might benefit from further corrosion prevention design up front? Can you offer one example?

Pybus: The MRAP [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected] vehicle is a good example. The decision to acquire the MRAP was expedited to meet a specific need. At the time this happened we had soldiers and Marines being killed by roadside bombs and IEDs [Improved Explosive Devices], so the MRAP program came about. It was a niche capability driven by the need to make a V-shaped hull that would actually deflect explosives from under the vehicle so that they wouldn’t penetrate normally. To give a little history—this program was driven from the Secretary of Defense’s office. Secretary Gates said we need it “today,” so we stood up a joint program office; the Navy put a Marine Corps brigadier general in as the program executive officer and sent out a solicitation to everyone who could build something, and within 90 days we had seven companies who were available to build prototypes.

When we acquired the MRAP, corrosion, quite candidly, was not a top priority. The joint program office wanted them in Iraq just as soon as they could get them there. According to some of the stories, some MRAPs had rusted before they even got to the port. But we’ll live with that. Nevertheless, we put about 12,000 MRAP vehicles in the theatre in less than two years, and that’s almost unheard of in a modern-day wartime environment. MRAP is an example of one platform that we’ve put out there to fill an urgent need, and we’re going to have to live with corrosion mitigation. And that’s okay. We knew what we were doing from the outset. We also didn’t carry out all the logistics steps and maintenance training, but in spite of this, MRAP sure saved a lot of American lives.

CorrDefense: Do you know whether the MRAP-all terrain vehicles that were acquired for Iraq are faring better in Afghanistan, in terms of corrosion?

Pybus: We have discussed this with the experts at Warren, Michigan, who are doing the buying for the MRAP-ATVs. They tell us at this point that they have no indications of corrosion problems on those vehicles that are similar to those experienced by the parent MRAP program. At this point we’re not aware of any.

CorrDefense: In your role as Army Corrosion Executive, how can you effectively balance your most urgent equipment needs with longer-term considerations that promote sustainment and corrosion prevention?

Hamerlinck: Mr. Pybus wears dual hats. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Policy and Logistics, he actually reviews all supportability strategies, or to put it in DoD 5000 terms, all of the life-cycle sustainment plans. He has input into those plans as well as the acquisition strategies. And for the ACAT I [Acquisition Category I] programs, the acquisition strategy has to include a corrosion prevention and control plan. He actually has an awful lot of visibility and input into the approval and acceptance of some of these documents that would discuss corrosion issues and show how we’re either going to plan for mitigation or mitigate. Mr. Pybus has to balance everything in terms of the objectives of the service and funding available. This is standard routine at his level.

CorrDefense: How closely are vital configuration management issues weighed against concerns about reducing corrosion costs on older equipment subject to retrofitted design (in order to prolong their life span)? Specifically, when your office is confronted with the need to make urgent repairs on equipment for troop safety, how do corrosion–related engineering change proposals and retrofits on older equipment (that has been fielded for 15 years or more) fare as budget priorities?

Hamerlinck: The way we do engineering change proposals is explained by the fact that the farther we get “to the right” in a life cycle of a building or piece of equipment, there’s less funding flexibility. To clarify, we move from “left to right” across the equipment life cycle, beginning with the design phase and continuing through development, production, fielding, sustainment, and ultimately disposal. The DoD Instruction 5000.02 contains a life cycle management model that calls out different life cycle phases and acquisition decisions. You have to prioritize what changes you’re going to make. That prioritization is based on safety and urgency. When we have something with a safety condition on it, where corrosion could cause something to fail catastrophically, or cause equipment damage or loss of life, it gets funded faster than anything else. If it’s more routine, it doesn’t necessarily fare as well as a priority.

CorrDefense: Are certain pressing concerns of the Defense Acquisition community antithetical to the mission of the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, during wartime?

Pybus: I don’t think so, but when we’re at war, there is so much more going on operationally and maintenance-wise, that our costs are going up in spite of efforts to reduce them. That’s just a matter of operations.

CorrDefense: In your efforts to reduce the costs set forth in the latest LMI Cost of Corrosion study, what obstacles do you encounter in quantifying the dollars spent during the design phase of a weapon system? Moreover, when you aim to reduce Army logistics and maintenance costs such as cleaning, lubricating, and inspecting, what are the greatest challenges that you face?

Hamerlinck: The LMI study contains a very big number and it catches people’s attention very fast. The methodology used to arrive at that number is helpful, but more importantly, it gives Mr. Pybus’s team a starting point for assessing areas of improvement. So we have started looking at the methodology to assess and evaluate whether or not the processes are there, to make sure the data in the database is accurate, and to learn whether or not we can give our experts the correct tools to analyze and assess appropriately what the failure mechanism is.

As we move through the design concept of building equipment into building prototypes, we have multi-functional teams that should be evaluating the design at the same time they’re developing the maintenance task distribution and root cause analysis. The farther right we go in the life cycle, the more that our earlier decisions should be reevaluated and corrected, if necessary. For example, for prototypes, we should be looking at corrosion, doing acceleration corrosion testing, and we should be ensuring that our maintenance actually captures what we found in testing.

Mr. Pybus believes that if we design the system, we must design the support, and then we have to support the design. Meaning, you’ve got to maintain the asset as it was designed. And we have to accept that the cost of this maintenance is a measure of operations, not necessarily corrosion.

CorrDefense: As you move forward with your team of corrosion experts, what components of the 2008-2009 LMI Cost of Corrosion study are proving useful to the Army?

Hamerlinck: Each functional element in the Army—aviation, ground vehicle, weapons systems, facilities—are all taking a look at their reports and decomposing them, trying to assess where those weapons systems are in relation to corrosion prevention and control. They’re taking whatever actions they need to take to correct them. AMCOM has established a separate and distinct Corrosion Prevention Team in Huntsville, AL. They’re actually working with the program managers and program executive offices to determine what issues on certain platforms should get priority and funding. The same process is being undertaken by each of our other functional elements.

Then at our level, we’re looking at what we need to do when we see different corrosion-related performance on two configurations of a vehicle, helicopter, or other weapon system. For example, why are the M1A1 and M1A2 tanks showing different results as far as corrosion is concerned? What’s the source of this difference? We’re discussing these kinds of issues at our level with program manager and program executive offices so that we can help them figure out funding and priority. So we are using the cost of corrosion studies toward these ends.

CorrDefense: What effect does an increased operational tempo in a war zone have on the Army’s cost of corrosion?

Pybus: The more we operate equipment during war that takes place in the sand-blown environment in Afghanistan (which is hard on our equipment), the more we are required to perform maintenance. A lot of Army maintenance activities that are being reported as a “cost of corrosion” are actually a result of the cost of operations in southwest Asia. During the current conflict we are using our equipment more often, and we are rotating it in and out of very harsh environments. Consequently we have to do more maintenance, which can drive up costs.

CorrDefense: In your role as Army Corrosion Executive, how will you and your team ensure that leaders of each functional domain are making corrosion something of a priority?

Pybus: I have assembled a team that includes representatives from each of the Army major commands, TRADOC [U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command], the National Guard Bureau, AMC [Army Materiel Command], and Army headquarters, which also includes facilities and all of the funding experts. There are periodic program reviews for both facilities and equipment. This will be a topic at each of those reviews. My senior-level team will convene at least semi-annually, and they will discuss corrosion on what I call my corrosion board. I plan on using this expertise and disseminating it via our annual Army Corrosion Summit and through other communications. I will try to keep the focus on corrosion at the senior level, and I will rely on the corrosion board to keep the focus with the field experts.

CorrDefense: How may your authority as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Policy and Logistics both support and enhance your efforts as Army Corrosion Executive?

Pybus: I think synergies between both positions are there, because in my office, we see every capability document under the JCIDS [Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System] process that is staffed on its way to the top leadership in the Army (and on its way to becoming a joint document). My being in this position gives us a degree of access and knowledge of what’s being done. We can attempt to put corrosion preventive language into every capability document that comes through. In reality, we are successful on some documents, but not on others because there is no inherent requirement that this language been inserted each time. All of our capability documents, like most of the other Services, originate from the war-fighting centers, which must balance a host of priorities besides corrosion.

We have agreed with the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office’s desire for us to use the key performance parameters for material availability. I would like to make corrosion prevention a key performance parameter [across the board], so the program executive offices and program managers could not trade it off, but frankly that would be unrealistic. I think in some cases, the dollar amounts required to make corrosion prevention a key performance parameter would be too high.

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