U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Home
  2. Blogs
  3. Driving Readiness through Early Life Cycle Sustainment Planning

Driving Readiness through Early Life Cycle Sustainment Planning

Was recently pondering the criticality of early sustainment planning and its lasting impacts – both positively or negatively – on system readiness and affordability throughout a system’s life cycle.…

Driving Readiness through Early Life Cycle Sustainment Planning


  1. Home
  2. Blogs
  3. Driving Readiness through Early Life Cycle Sustainment Planning
Black background with gray photo icon
Bill Kobren
Was recently pondering the criticality of early sustainment planning and its lasting impacts – both positively or negatively – on system readiness and affordability throughout a system’s life cycle. The more I consider this, the more convinced than ever I am that a) Reliability, Availability, Maintainability (RAM) and Supportability are key to successful life cycle management, b) early investment in designing for sustainment can yield significant cost savings across system life cycle, and c) at the end of the day, it’s not about parts on the shelf – it’s about affordable war-winning capabilities, outcomes, readiness, and satisfied warfighters. These observations are borne out by a range authoritative sources, including:
  • “An OSD…study shows operations and sustainment account for two-thirds or more of a system life cycle. According to Army studies, almost 90% of the sustainment costs are directly correlated with the reliability of the system. Given the amount of resources consumed during sustainment, investments in reliability enhancements can provide a very large return on that investment.” – Defense Science Board Task Force on Developmental Test & Evaluation
  • “The Secretary of Defense shall ensure that the defense acquisition system gives ample emphasis to sustainment factors, particularly those factors that are affected principally by the design of a weapon system, in the development of a weapon system….The Secretary shall ensure that reliability and maintainability are included in the performance attributes of the key performance parameter on sustainment during the development of capabilities requirements.” - 10 USC 2443: Sustainment Factors in Weapon System Design
  • “Program Managers shall consider supportability, life cycle costs, performance, and schedule comparable in making program decisions. Planning for Operation and Support and the estimation of total ownership costs shall begin as early as possible. Supportability, a key component of performance, shall be considered throughout the system life cycle.” – DoD Directive 5000.01, Para E.1.1.29

So where do we as life cycle logisticians start, you might ask? Well, a few fundamental data points to consider:

  • “System suitability – especially reliability – directly impacts our warfighter’s performance. …Suitability – especially reliability – drives system life cycle costs. Put simply, poor reliability means higher sustainment cost.” - DOT&E FY2007 Annual Report
  • Historically, systems have most often been found unsuitable due to RAM issues identified during Developmental Testing (DT) and Operational Testing (OT)) because the RAM requirements were ill-defined or were traded away without understanding the life cycle impact of doing so.
  • Reliability, Availability, Maintainability (RAM) driven costs are very often the greatest contributors to sustainment requirements Life Cycle Cost
  • Seventy percent of design-related costs are generally locked in place by Milestone B
  • Reliable systems require less maintenance; Maintainable systems are easier to support
  • Primary sustainment cost drivers include manpower, fuel, spare parts, and maintenance. To reduce operating and support costs, logic would suggest minimizing these requirements to maximum extent practicable by driving them out to the maximum extent practicable during the system design
  • “Make hay while the sun shines” – Well-Known Idiom

But what exactly does this mean? And what can we as acquisition professionals do (or do better)? Opportunities abound, and include:

  • Get your requirements right. The Sustainment Key Performance Parameter (KPP) is key.
  • Recognize there is significant ROI from “early” reliability and maintainability investment. “Our analysis revealed reliability returns-on-investment between a low of 2 to 1 and a high of 128 to 1. The average expected return is 15 to 1, implying a $15 savings in life cycle costs for each dollar invested in reliability. Since the programs we examined were mature,… earlier reliability investment (ideally, early in the design process), could yield even larger returns with benefits to both warfighters and taxpayers.” - DOT&E FY2007 Annual Report
    • “..steps to improve suitability: clear statement of requirements, contract provisions, early discovery of failure modes in developmental and operational test (DT/OT), and the collection of field data.”
  • Design systems that fail less often, require less maintenance, and require less manpower to support
  • Clear definition of reliability and maintainability requirements
  • Clear understanding by developer on how users will operate and maintain the system when fielded
  • Robust reliability and maintainability incentives in contracting
  • Robust reliability growth program during system development
  • Early formulation of maintenance and support concepts
  • Design advanced diagnostics, prognostics & health management into system
  • Parts selection/parts management – commonality and standardization
  • Design systems with reducing fuel requirements/energy efficiency in mind
  • Minimize or eliminate requirements for system unique/peculiar support and test equipment; instead maximize requirements for common equipment across multiple systems
  • Design maintainable systems with accessibility, modularity, and testability in mind
  • No functional stovepipes! Success requires a joint venture that transcends traditional engineering, logistics, program management, manufacturing, or financial management silos.
  • Although it’s never too late, keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more costly RAMS investments are likely to be.

The good news is we as life cycle logisticians, reliability, supportability and logistics engineers, and product support managers, have ample number of tools in our tool kit, including:

  • Product Support Analysis (PSA) - The analysis required to create a product support strategy needed to field and maintain the readiness and operational capability of major weapon systems, subsystems, and components, including all functions related to weapon system readiness. PSA is necessary to accurately derive provisioning data, maintenance task data, and cataloging data. It forms the basis of provisioning technical documentation, maintenance plan, training, technical manuals, supply support requirements, and other information required to support and sustain a fielded system. Processes and analyses are defined in MIL-HDBK-502A and SAE TA-STD-0017 Product Support Analysis (PSA). It includes:
    • Failure Modes Effects & Criticality Analysis (FMECA)
    • Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA)
    • Level of Repair Analysis (LORA)
    • Maintenance Task Analysis (MTA)
    • Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)
    • Reliability, Availability, Maintainability (RAM)
    • Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)
    • Failure Reporting and Corrective Action (FRACAS)
  • Logistics Product Data (LPD)
    • The data resulting from Product Support Analyses, consisting of detailed data pertaining to the identification of Product Support resource requirements of a product
    • Data elements are defined in SAE GEIA-STD-0007 Logistics Product Data (LPD)
  • Robust Reliability Growth Program
  • Life Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP)
  • Modular Open System Approach (MOSA)
  • Condition Based Maintenance (CBM+)
  • Product Life Cycle Management (PLM)
  • Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy

But what about fielded systems? What if my program is well past “early” in the system life cycle? It it “game over” for us? Good news is there are tools in this tool kit as well:

  • Performance Based Logistics (PBL) Outcome-Based Product Support Strategies
    • Outcomes – including potential improvements in reliability, availability, maintainability, readiness, supportability, and process enhancements -- are acquired through product support arrangements that help programs achieve warfighter requirements and incentivizes providers to improve performance and reduce costs through innovation.
    • Long-term, outcome-based (PBL) product support strategies enabled by public-private partnerships (PPPs)
      • Incentivize desired behaviors, achieve key metrics, facilitate product and process improvements
      • Balance affordability & readiness…or better still, strive for increased performance at lower costs
  • Continuously Evaluate Suitability Across the Life Cycle
    • Independent Logistics Assessments (ILA) during development (10 USC 2337a and DoDI 5000.02, Enclosure 6) Provides Critical Technical And Management Information To Support the Governance Process
    • Post-IOC Sustainment Reviews (10 USC 2441 and DoDI 5000.02, Enclosure 6)
  • Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) for Fielded Systems
    • Product Improvements
      • Robust Sustaining Engineering program
      • Technology insertion and continuous modernization
      • Leverage modular open systems to facilitate rapid technology insertion & modernization
      • Condition Based Maintenance (CBM+): prognostics, diagnostics, condition monitoring
    • Process improvements
      • Workforce training, expertise, experience
      • Maintenance processes, two-level maintenance, condition-based/opportune maintenance, repair turnaround time efficiencies
      • Data-driven, affordable, customer-focused, agile, highly responsive supply chains
      • Proactive Diminishing Manufacturing Sources & Material Shortages (DMSMS) strategies

The even better news is you’re not alone on this journey! You have ample resources readily available, including a range of no-cost DoD references:

Additionally your DAU teammates offer a range of tuition-free training opportunities to assist you on your early sustainment planning journey:

The bottom line is early sustainment planning is critical, it pays dividends across the system life cycle, and it improves readiness, availability, and affordability. What’s not to like? And more importantly what are you waiting for? Let’s get on with it!