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Proactively Anticipating Fiscal Challenges

In view of anticipated decreases in defense spending, we, as life cycle logisticians, need to be prepared. I say this not from a policy perspective (we in academia do not presume to set policy),…

Proactively Anticipating Fiscal Challenges


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  3. Proactively Anticipating Fiscal Challenges
Bill Kobren

In view of anticipated decreases in defense spending, we, as life cycle logisticians, need to be prepared. I say this not from a policy perspective (we in academia do not presume to set policy), but rather from a practitioner’s perspective. I am also not going to debate the merits of the debt ceiling deal or ramifications here of statutory or policy decisions on things like defense acquisition workforce, the defense industrial and supplier base, investment in new technologies, or research, development, test & evaluation, and the like. Let’s just say for the sake of argument, we assume that the number of new acquisition program starts might decline. If that in fact did come to pass, are we prepared? Are there things the life cycle logistics community would need to do in advance to proactively respond?


Let’s start first with the positives. We’re better prepared than some might think. First off, the life cycle logistics community is well-positioned due to the foresight of career field functional leadership over the last decade. The transition from pure acquisition logistics into the life cycle logistics career field in 2003, accompanied by increased focus on long-term sustainment positions us well to plan, manage and support fielded weapon systems, as well as new acquistion programs. Our workforce has had eight years to accumulate needed expertise, broader experience, more training, and a more strategic perspective.  We have also had almost 13 years of experience working closely with our industry colleagues in crafting and executing a wide-range of highly effective and efficient public-private partnerships (PPP) and performance based life cycle product support (PBL) arrangements. Successful life cycle logisticians and (what are now called) product support managers have likely already experienced operating in a resource constrained environment, so we are well familiar with devising, implementing and executing innovative product support strategies that optimize system readiness and life cycle costs, even prior to entering a period of potentially declining budgets and fiscal belt tightening.


That said, as the recent budget and debt ceiling debates indicate, we are clearly entering a period of increased austerity and fiscal constraints. Rather than wring our hands, complain, or fearfully await the next shoe to drop, instead would encourage each one of us to proactively think had about what else must we as life cycle logisticians can and must do to better prepare and position ourselves, our programs, and our functional community. A few suggestions, if I might:


·         Read, then re-read Dr Carter’s better buying power initiatives, including the early June, September, and November 2010 policy memorandums. Know them, understand them, and perhaps most importantly, be prepared to articulate how you and your program are implementing them. Consider both the implications and applications, including seeking opportunities to go beyond the minimum expectations specified in policy.

·         Think hard about wringing additional efficiencies out of your organization’s day-to-day activities. Do we need to travel when a phone call or VTC would work instead? Do we really need that deliverable? Do we need to perform that activity? Is there a “nice to have” requirement that we can do without? Is there a more effective approach? Is there a more efficient way of doing business? What can I do better?

·         If your organization has not embraced a culture of continuous process improvement, lean-six sigma, and streamlining processes, the time to get smart, get trained, and to get moving is now, if not sooner.

·         For those managing or supporting weapon systems already in sustainment, think about innovative ways you would support your system if for example, direction came to extend the service life an addition ten or twenty years beyond current requirements. How would you respond? Know the range of options open to you. Think how you would ensure reliability numbers meet or exceed current requirements. How could you better leverage PBL and PPP arrangements? Technology insertion? Corrosion prevention? Continuous modernization? Value engineering change proposals? Service life extension programs? Obsolescence & DMSMS mitigation strategies?

·         Become an expert in product support strategy business case analysis (BCA). Know how to conduct them, what to consider, what to look for, and what outcomes you must achieve. Leverage the new DoD Product Support Manager (PSM) and DoD Product Support BCA Guidebooks.

·         Leverage the new Logistics Assessment (LA) Guidebook as a tool to evaluate where your program should be at given phases of the life cycle.

·         Ensure your Life Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) is flexible enough to handle changes in funding, keeping in mind the LCSP is envisioned to be regularly updated to reflect changes in product support strategy as circumstances, requirements, and your BCA may necessitate.

·         Hire wisely. Look for not only highly talented prospective employees, but look for highly enthusiastic ones. Look for those with a proven track record of success (these can include people just entering the workforce, too). Look for those with highly diverse backgrounds. Look for those who go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Look for those who have outstanding communications skills, leadership potential, and initiative. Seek employees who are innovative, strategic and visionary in their thinking, and not afraid to 'think outside the box'. If they happen to have experience in other functional areas, so much the better. Same goes for supporting weapon system product support strategy planning, development, and implementation across a wide variety of organizations, programs, or life cycle phases.        

·         Assuming failure (or complaining) is not an option here. Think hard about how you would proactively deal with a significant and unexpected cut in your program’s sustainment budget with no corresponding decrease in required readiness and Warfighter support. Talk to others who have gone through similar challenges on their programs in the past. What did they do? How did they meet the Warfighter requirements when they faced funding reductions?

·         Seek out more professional development opportunities. Certification training is necessary, but it is just the start. Go beyond the 80 hours of required continuous training. Avail yourselves of the recommended Core Plus training opportunities available to all defense acquisition workforce members.

·         Be proactive. Be prepared. Be ready. Oh, and don’t forget – stay positive, take care of each other, and have fun while you’re at it, too!