Modernization in Support of USMC Force Design

Colonel Wilfred Rivera
U.S. Marine Depot Maintenance Command

From Armor & Mobility, October 2020

Colonel Wilfred Rivera is currently serving as the Commander, Marine Depot Maintenance Command (MDMC) in Albany, GA. A Joint Qualified Officer and meritoriously augmented career Logistician who has commanded at every level. As the MDMC Commander, he leads over 1,700 civilian Marines and contractors in the Force Design changes necessary and to be executed at the speed of relevance to outperform a pacing threat in 2030 and beyond. Enabling freedom of action, extending operational reach, prolonging endurance, and increasing the lethality of the Fleet Marine Force are in the forefront of our day to day Aoperations while maintaining cost, schedule, and quality year after year.

Armor & Mobility had the opportunity to speak with Col. Wilfred Rivera, Commander, U.S. Marine Depot Maintenance Command, regarding USMC efforts to maintain high-level depot operations in support of U.S. Naval readiness during a global pandemic.

A&M: From a USMC depot maintenance perspective, tell A&M readers about any adjustments MDMC has/continues to implement during the current pandemic in maintaining personnel safety and mission fluidity.

Col. Rivera: Marines, both civilian and uniform, are always in the fight. In the active component, the individual Marine is the most important resource. We assign this same value to our more than 1,700 mission essential civilian Marines strategically located around the globe who provide Depot level support to the FMF. In today’s COVID-19 environment, it is no different. Inherently, everything we do is dangerous, but specifically as a team, our priority is to keep COVID-19 outside of our Depot. We continue to take offensive actions against COVID-19 by following and practicing CDC and DoN guidance. From the beginning of the outbreak, our team-all 1,700 of us-have maintained a safe and healthful working environment while holding fast to our mission to provide timely and dependable Depot support to the FMF to directly contribute to the lethality of our Corps. Thanks to the accountability of our workforce-the individual employees, small unit leaders, management, and our higher headquarters staff-we have been able to maintain our mission and keep our Marines in the fight.

A&M: Tell us about MDMC mission evolution to present and your role as MDMC Commander.

Col. Rivera: The best way that I can describe my role as the MDMC commander is to explain how I view and associate it with the “Innovator’s Dilemma.” MDMC is at a fork in the road where we are challenging the norms and embracing innovation while seeking increased agility, pivot speed, and by taking bold moves that propel us toward the future. The National Defense Strategy and Force Design have served as the catalysts for this change. MDMC brings needed increased readiness and agility to the Corps by setting our schedule two years out which ensures flexibility and allowance for adjustment to the needs of the FMF. The critical action that we are addressing now is our posture to support the future workload. In the past, our core competency was heavy iron. As we look forward to 2030 and beyond, the four critical workloads we see are: (1) Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) Systems; (2) Fires; (3) Autonomous Systems; and (4) USMC specific systems. These new workloads will drive our three major efforts going forward: (1) workforce development; (2) operational footprint; and (3) Depot modernization.

A&M: As a critical USMC element for Fleet Marine Force support, speak to some key ground combat and combat support initiatives.

Col. Rivera: MDMC is exploring ways in which we can more directly impact the operational readiness of Marine Corps equipment. For example, we are in discussions with the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (4th MAW) to establish a Proof of Principle for our Deployable Depot Capability. 4th MAW will provide aircraft (e.g., MV-22 or C-130), training sorties, and the identification of units across the United States in which MDMC can provide a wide range of capabilities to increase readiness (e.g., subject matter experts, specialized equipment, calibrations, additive manufacturing, etc.). The new Deployable Depot Capability will be task organized and loadable in our aircraft inventory; virtual; and include the small boats of the future. We are developing a Naval (USN & USMC) Depot Strategy that allows us to repair Navy equipment while leveraging the existing naval supply routes. We are on track to obtain ISO 45001:2018, UL 3400, and AS9100 certifications, which will leverage our capabilities globally and increase access as needed.

A&M: In terms of development of a more distributed and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) environment, how do you see MDMC posturing a forward deployed depot capability to the Fleet?

Col. Rivera: To be relevant in 2030 and beyond we have to bring depot level capabilities as far forward as we can to extend operational reach, prolong endurance, and enable freedom of action for the Fleet Marine Force and our Navy shipmates. The paradigm shift with this approach is that technology like 5G will allow us to have a virtual depot level capability that directly increases readiness. We are looking at ways of co-locating portions of our depot capabilities with the Marine Expeditionary Forces, and most importantly, have a depot forward capability (not necessarily physical) inside the Weapons Engagement Zone (WEZ). For example, we are examining Force Design implications like the divestment of tanks. Could the old tank maintenance bays be utilized to solve the current Fleet Marine Force maintenance requirements? Could co-locating a depot capability that reduces transportation costs as well as increases the operational availability of the equipment better meet the need? How do we leverage the Defense Policy Review Initiative to increase operational availability inside the WEZ?

A&M: Talk to some MDMC modernization efforts to enable more efficient additive/subtractive manufacturing, augmented reality and simulation, as well as new opportunities in areas such as autonomous robotics.

Col. Rivera: We like to bin our modernization efforts into the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, under a Naval construct across the warfighting domains. Industry 4.0 includes:

Industrial Internet of Things; Big Data and Analytics; Cloud Computing; Advanced Robotics; Additive Manufacturing;

Digital Twins; and Augmented and Virtual Reality. For example, we are in partnership with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLB-A) to utilize Big Data and Analytics with sensors in some of our buildings (think conditions-based maintenance) to anticipate maintenance needs, reduce downtime, and increase productivity. We are also working with industry as well as MCLB-A to develop an Augmented and Virtual Reality under their 5G proof of principle with the end-state of having depot subject matter experts linked with Marines inside the WEZ to help them troubleshoot and/or repair and identify required parts. In addition, MDMC will soon be conducting a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Marine Corps Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (UL 3400 certified).

A&M: From a reverse engineering perspective, what are some focus areas that MDMC is leveraging to implement lessons learned in development and faster acquisition of more targeted future FMF capabilities.

Col. Rivera: In the long term, we have to work closely with our higher headquarters and Marine Corps Systems Command in order to become a sub to the prime for new Marine Corps acquisitions in C4I, Fires, Autonomous Systems, and USMC specific systems. We now have to be a part of the acquisition cycle up front in order to create synergy and “supporting fires” between the Defense Industrial Base and the Organic Industrial Base. Our ability to partner with industry early in the acquisition cycle helps to mitigate the gaps created when we hastily transition from one to the other and to avoid unfavorable milestone decisions. In the interim, we are utilizing our manufacturing capabilities to build a contingency catalog of manufactured parts and repair processes that will directly impact operational readiness and equipment availability. This catalog is intended to bridge the gap between the “gray zone” and kinetic operations against a pacing threat until industry and the Joint Logistics Enterprise normalizes their support to those operations.

A&M: Feel free to speak to other goals/challenges moving forward.

Col. Rivera: The biggest challenge is speed. 2030 will be here before we know it and we cannot afford to make incremental changes; they need to be monumental in scope and high impact to the FMF. For example, when you play the game of “Go,” the proverb “Lose 100 Games as Quickly as Possible” holds much truth. You must be willing to sacrifice in the beginning to win in the end–much like our investment in our Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence.

The upfront cost to establish this capability is warranted and allows us to reverse engineer as well as print complex geometrical parts and geometry otherwise difficult to find in the traditional supply chain. However, in order to win in the end and truly increase FMF readiness, we need supported units and key stakeholders to register their requirement and be willing to learn and adapt today. If we have idle printers we may not be optimizing readiness. Another challenge is in aligning source of repair decisions with the NDS and with Marine Corps Force Design. We must ask ourselves if the decisions made in the legacy operating environment will produce the results we need in tomorrow’s environment. For example, currently, MDMC does not have the authority to repair the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Our workforce who just recently earned the Mason Award for a Fires platform, the highest award for depot-level maintenance in all of the Department of Defense, is ready and postured to take on the Fires workload that will increase the lethality of USMC. In my opinion, in 2030, we would have upgraded from “every Marine is a Rifleman” to “every Marine is a Firesman.” Our biggest goal is to leverage the Working Capital Fund (WCF) in order to deliver more readiness than we are funded for. The WCF brings a “business” mindset inside our Corps, and much like a corporation, brings a lot of extra tools to that business. Bottom line: we have to be a readiness multiplier for our Corps and further modernize to be relevant in 2030.