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Sustaining a Resilient Joint Force and Defense Ecosystem that Enables Integrated Deterrence—Part 2 of 2

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Sustaining a  Resilient Joint Force and Defense Ecosystem that Enables Integrated Deterrence - Part 2 of 2

by Christopher J. Lowman, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment 


Integrated deterrence entails working seamlessly across warfighting domains, theaters, the spectrum of conflict, all instruments of U.S. national power, and our network of alliances and partnerships … To shore up the foundations for integrated deterrence and campaigning, we will act urgently to build enduring advantages across the defense ecosystem.”
—2022 National Defense Strategy 

The future of data-informed sustainment is now. Effective use of information has been a critical factor in military successes throughout history. In this period of strategic competition, the rate of data-enabled decision making required to sustain forces in peer competition or conflict is beyond all previous levels. For example, we have just begun leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to ensure maintenance prognostics and achieve better supply postures. In the future, we aim to achieve gains from AI and ML to continue outpacing peer and near-peer threats and ensure battlefield victory.

Part 1 recap

We are establishing new capabilities for illuminating data and enabling analytics to better inform sustainment-related decision making at command level, whether tactical, operational, or strategic, and throughout the weapon system life cycle. Some pertinent examples follow:

The DoD established Integrated Acquisition Performance Reviews (IAPRs) at the Under Secretary of Defense level that include actionable information on sustainment performance. Common metrics are used, monitored, and reviewed as part of the IAPR for programs in production as well as fielded weapon systems. This enables a data-driven focus on systemic sustainment issues for a given portfolio of systems and information such as how much these fleets cost the DoD in money or manpower and how much they return in availability. These reviews fully leverage common sustainment data sources to support decision making and develop and share information that can better posture the entire sustainment community to maximize availability and readiness.

In support of this effort, the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment recently issued new Sustainment Data Requirements guidance regarding “Sustainment Performance and Cost Metrics.” These requirements use common sustainment metrics taxonomy and lexicon across the life cycle, including sustainment requirements from the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS). Among these are Key Performance Parameters such as Operational Availability (Ao) and Materiel Availability (Am) measures used to better understand not only fleet performance but also the effectiveness of the maintenance, repair, and overhaul capability at logistics and sustainment organizational and command levels.

Using the same JCIDS requirements for design and throughout testing and the entire life cycle at every level will match expected performance to actual performance. This enables program and sustainment management communities to better detect deviations and target poor performance and highest weapon system cost drivers in order to address bad actors.

We have developed a “cost per day of availability” metric that helps identify the sustainment costs for every day that a particular readiness reportable end item is available for use. The metric offers a powerful, more nuanced understanding of the operating and support cost drivers affecting equipment availability and enables the DoD to identify and locate its most costly and underperforming assets. The metric helps isolate the cause for poor performance due to inadequate training, difficult operating environments, or materiel obsolescence, and apply the appropriate management decisions to improve sustainment and reduce costs.

Another opportunity for data-informed sustainment requires broader implementation of Condition-Based Maintenance Plus (CBM+). This is an industry best practice that can enable transition from unscheduled, reactive maintenance to a more deliberate, predictive, or scheduled approach. CBM+ facilitates performing maintenance based on probability of failure when it optimally supports operations. This avoids conducting maintenance at the point of failure, which can negatively impact unit readiness.

Implementing CBM+ provides a better understanding of system performance, including associated cost drivers and support options, while enabling more precise inventory management of critical items. The DoD has aligned leadership focus and is making targeted investments to expedite fielding CBM+ capabilities in new acquisitions and select legacy platforms. This includes focusing on the requisite business intelligence to facilitate decision making at the relevant command level. Embracing CBM+ across the DoD reduces costs, increases availability, improves maintenance capability, and reduces the probability of unanticipated equipment failures.

The Sustainment team is working in partnership across the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Staff, and the Services to establish a sustainment data ecosystem that will facilitate data analysis and create a framework for reviewing weapon systems from the deck plate to the portfolio level. A review of fielded weapon system sustainment metrics, in conjunction with assessing those platforms in acquisition, will provide an enterprise perspective of sustainment performance outcomes.

Our goal is to focus on identifying systemic sustainment issues, find solutions plaguing specific systems and portfolios, and help inform resourcing discussions of critical sustainment challenges. This is a significant undertaking, but it creates the first opportunity for all members of the Sustainment community to see themselves in a common, comprehensive manner.

Another opportunity for data-informed sustainment requires broader implementation of Condition-Based Maintenance Plus (CBM+). This is an industry best practice that can enable transition from unscheduled, reactive maintenance to a more deliberate, predictive, or scheduled approach.

Core Logistics Capabilities and the Industrial Base

We are not limiting our activity to the operational level of sustainment and are devoting equal thought on how best to posture Defense Industrial Base (DIB) support of the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and present an integrated deterrence capability that provides an enduring advantage. We are leveraging actionable data analytics across the DIB to redefine how we identify, modernize, and balance the critical capabilities of all organic DoD and industrial partner providers.

To support the materiel readiness of the DoD’s complex weapon systems, our DIB comprises commercial and organic sources governed by the framework legislated under Title 10 of the United States Code. Core logistics capabilities and the workloads to support them are designed to ensure a ready and controlled source of technical competency, facilities, and equipment to sustain in peacetime the capabilities required for surge requirements for contingency situations. Given the rapid pace of technological change, our network of government-owned industrial capabilities that comprise the Organic Industrial Base (OIB) needs new capabilities and workforce competencies to remain relevant and capable of sustaining materiel readiness into the future.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ramon Russel, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology assistant section chief, shines a light while working on an F-16 Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 22, 2022. The Aircraft Metals Technology section performed an F-16 bulkhead reaming operation that has never been performed at the field level on Shaw AFB, negating the need for a Depot Field Team that could take up to three to four months.  Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Madeline Herzog Photo cropped to show detail.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ramon Russel, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technology assistant section chief, shines a light while working on an F-16 Viper at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 22, 2022. The Aircraft Metals Technology section performed an F-16 bulkhead reaming operation that has never been performed at the field level on Shaw AFB, negating the need for a Depot Field Team that could take up to three to four months.

Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Madeline Herzog
Photo cropped to show detail.

Capability identification. We recognize that the Core logistics statute requires the DoD to enable depot-level maintenance for new technologies such as directed energy or hypersonics, but believe there is an opportunity to balance the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) requirements with private sector providers. We are exploring the use of “technology sectors” to identify core capabilities and requisite systems that fall within the technology sectors for organic support as opposed to system-specific assessments. This approach enables the DoD to satisfy statutory requirements for core capabilities but also to balance workloads across the organic and commercial sectors and increase our resilience.

This effort requires the OIB to develop capacity and technical competence for those emerging technologies using traditional weapon system-centric approaches to establishing Core logistics capabilities. We believe that this broader sector approach is critical to the strategic development of resilient supply chains and enhances resiliency within the DIB, increases our flexibility to meet the demands of peer competition, and enables the right balance of capabilities between the OIB and the commercial DIB to ensure the resiliency, economic viability, and health of both.

Capability modernization and balance. The Services are undergoing the largest OIB modernization effort in a generation to update depot maintenance organizations, operations, and infrastructure. They are improving processes, deploying interoperable MRO information technology systems, and enabling and retaining world-class capabilities that are properly sized to workload requirements.

Therefore, we have an opportunity to better balance the complementary organic and commercial sectors and reduce redundancy where possible. This can be achieved only through transparency and open lines of communications so that each sector understands the capital investment plans and where the DoD intends to develop and sustain capability over time. By necessity, this allows the commercial sector to gain some measure of assurance regarding the workload that the DoD will not seek to bring in-house.

OSD views the Service sustainment modernization plans through the lens of an enterprise-level strategy that looks 15 years down the road at capabilities that the Services either are already developing or have the research and development investments in place to develop. We are using these strategies to better communicate with industry and achieve strategic alignment across the Service modernization efforts to define an optimum investment approach.

OSD views the Service sustainment modernization plans through the lens of an enterprise-level strategy that looks 15 years down the road at capabilities that the Services either are already developing or have the research and development investments in place to develop.

Implications

Multi-echelon sustainment, supported by more reliable data at all levels, achieves a more meaningful balance across the DIB, which enables us to achieve the resilience necessary to ensure enduring advantage as well as develop the integration needed to present a credible deterrence posture.

There are several general implications to consider as we continue this journey:

  • We must fully leverage open systems approaches for weapon systems, and build end-to-end automated, digital architectures to allow foresight and enable decision overmatch.
  • We need to rebalance workload between the commercial and OIB in order to maintain technical competencies for sustaining War-fighter requirements and building resilience.
  • We must recognize that some capabilities, such as those dependent on emerging technologies or involving high-demand or low-density workloads, may be better served in the near term by commercial industry.

We must continually assess the capacity requirements and gain an understanding of the capacity needed to support interwar yearly operations and identify, allocate, and incentivize retention of surge capacity, whether commercial or organic, to ensure its availability when needed.

New technologies and the evolving characteristics of war (including speed and lethality) require new approaches. DoD cannot walk this path alone.

Closing Thoughts

Sustainment is never the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about deterrence. However, in the environment of near-peer competition, the potential for operations within a contested logistics environment requires us to think differently about sustainment. As a result, sustainment will play a critical role in enabling integrated deterrence by increasing adversary uncertainty and presenting a credible deterrence posture.

In executing the central charge of the NDS to develop, combine, and coordinate our strengths to maximum effect—which is the core of integrated deterrence—we are harnessing the power of data and analytics to identify and address cross-cutting sustainment challenges and cost drivers. Likewise, we are ensuring the right balance of logistics capabilities between the organic and private sector sustainment providers to establish and ensure the resilience needed to support our Warfighter requirements now and in the future.

New technologies and the evolving characteristics of war (including speed and lethality) require new approaches. DoD cannot walk this path alone. Success will require collaboration with industry, academia, and international partners. Each has a role and the responsibility to think critically, embrace innovation and risk-taking, and make data-informed decisions that enable integrated deterrence. Welcome to the team.


LOWMAN is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. He advises the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and oversees the Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Microelectronics Activity. After serving over three decades across the U.S. Army and the Joint Force, he performed the duties of Under Secretary of the Army in 2021–2022. Lowman holds an M.S. degree from the National War College and an MBA from Monmouth University.

The author can be contacted at [email protected]


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