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  • Question

    What is an aging and surveillance plan? Does it take into consideration service life or shelf life of the item?


    Answer

    The Aging and Surveillance test program is a subcomponent of the Stockpile Reliability Program (SRP), which in various iterations is conducted for a variety of weapons systems types by each of the Armed Services.  Its purpose is to examine aged hardware to determine natural degradation characteristics and to understand or even predict performance changes, lifespan impacts and failure modes - with the overall intent of reducing life cycle costs while maintaining system availability. All DOD weapons systems experience and must counter obsolescence issues which result in altered availability rates over time and differing failure rates and modes as systems age.  This is often discussed in conjunction with Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS), but the more specific Aging and Surveillance phraseology is most often associated with missile and rocket technology and related weapons systems.  Differing terminology notwithstanding, such programs are an acknowledgement that informed systems engineering design practices can positively impact but never eliminate impacts of war and accident, corrosion, technology advances, usage changes, etc., and thus ongoing surveillance of systems and components is necessary to optimally maintain system readiness.  In Congressional testimony as recently as May, 2013, VADM Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency, indicated the Stockpile Reliability Program would be continued, to "…track performance, aging, and reliability metrics, software updates, and technology enhancements..."
     
    Surveillance is a primary component of the larger Stockpile Reliability Program, in addition to testing, and is intended to ensure fielded weapons systems remain reliable and available. To that end, data is collected about the weapon system performance from development and test through Operations & Support Phase, with the aggregate data used to elucidate trends associated with age, usage and environmental impacts, performance, maintenance and availability. Shelf life of component or material, service life of the system, operational processes, and maintenance extent, intervals and procedures are often adjusted as a result. Surveillance processes vary greatly, are based on the results of the surveillance itself, and may consist of simple data tracking and visual inspections, or destructive testing including live fire, or a variety of approaches in between. Unique to a given weapon system, the Stockpile Reliability Program (SRP) Plan's general approach is defined early in a program's life cycle and while it may be tuned over time, the SRP Plan remains fairly  consistent. The applicable Program Office is the right source for further information on a given SRP Plan.
     
    From a Life Cycle Logistics standpoint, a proactive surveillance program for an aging weapon system is the means to find the right balance point between O&M sustainment costs versus system availability and effectiveness. For any fielded weapons system, the life cycle costs are best reduced by informed systems engineering processes that take into account affordability and sustainability considerations during system design.
     
    For general information, i.e., non-Service/non-program specific, on obsolescence, DMSMS and sustainment of aging weapons systems, The Defense Standardization Program Office has released the SD-22 document, "Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages: A Guidebook of Best Practices for Implementing a Robust DMSMS Management Program". (https://acc.dau.mil/dmsmsguidebook)  This is a collection of resources, references, specific tools, procedures and best practices intended to catalyze a program's capability to deal with issues associated with aging systems. Regardless of the terminology used for such efforts, it is, as the SD-22 states, "…a matter of lives, readiness, mission success, and dollars."


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