Pearls of Wisdom for DoD Product Support Managers
"You have done yeoman’s work in ensuring that equipment continues to be available, ready, and where appropriate, lethal. But your work isn’t complete. As the Department continues to design, build, and deploy new capabilities for that uncertain future, it is up to you, the PSM to be the voice of the warfighter, asking hard questions in the program offices about system resilience and operational availability, pushing for longer mean times between failure, and shorter mean times to repair.
You have to be the champion for designing in reliability and maintainability. You have to be the voice that speaks up when hard choices are made about immediate program needs that threaten to trade away life-cycle capabilities. You have to be the one to dig into the system engineering to ensure that line replaceable units are quickly and easily accessible by the men and women in the field. You have to be the one who challenges the PM and contracting officer to choose the smartest downrange maintenance protocol. You have to be the one who challenges cost estimates that short shrift the sparing plans, POL estimates, and other risky schemes to shift today’s program costs to tomorrow’s operational costs. Sometimes, you need to be the “voice crying in the wilderness,” with no one appearing to listen, but with the warfighter’s future at stake.
As a former Program Manager and System Engineer, I’ve seen too often that life-cycle considerations are pushed to the side because, “that’s not integral to the acquisition strategy,” or because “it’s a different pot of money.” Baloney. Don’t allow your program team to take the easy path to short term success. If you don’t toss the penalty flag on this kind of thinking, who will?
By the way, I’m not the only one that thinks there is a critical need for Program Support Managers. In FY10, Congress established it in law. PSMs for ACAT 1 programs are now designated Key Leader Positions – a distinction that senior logisticians didn’t carry before.
But…what does this mean for you and your professional development? First, you need to be as well versed on the acquisition strategy as the Program Manager, as conversant on the technical aspects of the program as the System Engineer, as comfortable with the budget as your Business, Financial Management and Cost Estimator, and as familiar and involved with the contract as the Contracting Officer. No pressure!
As the PSM on a program, your voice and your vote are important to the success of the program, and the success of the warfighter sometime in the future in a faraway place against an enemy that won’t wait until the broken equipment is fixed, the maintainers show up, or the spare parts arrive. One of my personal heroes, Gen Dwight Eisenhower correctly observed that “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.”"
Never forget – what you do, how well you do it, and who you do it for. It matters.