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  3. Product Support—The Key To Warfighter Readiness

Product Support—The Key to Warfighter Readiness

Product Support - The Key to Warfighter Readiness

Lisa Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Product Support

Soldiers perform maintenance checks while loading trucks with heavy military equipment.
Source: U.S. Army photo

There has been a lot of discussion lately about “product support” and its role in effectively and affordably ensuring our weapon systems meet Warfighter needs. Congress has placed additional emphasis on product support and our ability to sustain our weapon systems. This started with mandating that Major Defense Acquisition Programs have a product support manager (PSM) assigned to support the program manager (PM) in developing product support solutions.
More recently, Congress directed that the Department of Defense (DoD) report annually on how programs’ product support solutions perform once fielded. Furthermore, the new DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000.91 is dedicated to developing, implementing, and managing product support solutions for our weapon systems. DoDI 5000.91 addresses product support for each of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) pathways. This article highlights the importance of product support and will improve the reader’s understanding of product support and its role in sustaining our weapon systems.

What do we mean when we say “product support”? Congress defined the term as: “The package of support functions required to field and maintain the readiness and operational capability of covered systems, subsystems, and components, including all functions related to covered system readiness.” (10 U.S. Code 2337(d)(1))

Some may ask what we mean when we refer to a “package of support functions.” The support functions are those activities associated with the product support elements. Collectively, these activities or functions are known as the integrated product support (IPS) elements. The 12 elements are:

  1. Product support management
  2. Design interface
  3. Sustaining engineering
  4. Maintenance planning and management
  5. Supply support
  6. Support equipment
  7. Technical data
  8. Training and training support
  9. Information technology systems continuous support
  10. Facilities and infrastructure
  11. Packaging, handling, storage, and transportation
  12. Manpower and personnel

Effective product support solutions address these 12 elements in an integrated, comprehensive fashion. You may have heard of the previously used term “Integrated Logistics Support Elements” (ILS) and noted that they look very similar. So what is the difference? There are two major differences between the ILS and IPS elements. First, “product support management” and “sustaining engineering” were added to the original 10 ILS elements. And, second, implementation and management of the activities across the system life cycle were added to all of the elements. This reflected a fundamental change from “acquisition” logistics to “life cycle” logistics and the responsibility of the PM and PSM for life-cycle management of the weapon system, including product support. With product support management and sustaining engineering added, product support now is broader than the traditional logistics elements but certainly includes them in its definition. However, “Logistics” may be associated with personnel, food services, medical, and various other areas that do not involve a weapon system.

Soldiers perform preventive maintenance checks and service on an M121 mortar system during a three-day drill.
Source: Air National Guard photo

Figure 1 emphasizes the importance of product support for Warfighter readiness and the relationship between the product support elements, the acquisition pathways, and the life-cycle phase of a weapon system. DoDI 5000.91 addresses the PS elements and associated activities across the life cycle for the various pathways.

Product support and sustainment planning occurs throughout the life cycle; and cost savings, though typically realized in sustainment, are greatly impacted by decisions made early in development. Therefore, it is critically important to have a life-cycle management perspective when assessing design trades during development and the return on investment when considering product support solutions. We must design for sustainment and begin planning for product support solutions as early as possible to shape sustainment costs over the life cycle.

Collaboration between the PM and PSM, product support providers, industry partners, and the customer for product support/sustainment requirements is the key to designing for sustainment and enabling reliability, maintainability, supportability, and affordability. Effective, affordable product support solutions start with well-defined requirements, but must also have accurate cost estimates that utilize historical and actual data. A product support strategy should have flexibility to adjust to changing requirements and constraints throughout a program’s life.

The framework for product support within all six AAF pathways is provided by the new DoDI 5000.91, which will cancel and replace Appendix 3D of DoDI 5000.85 (the interim repository of product support policy formerly in DoDI 5000.02 Enclosure 6). That new framework provides the regulatory requirements for product support and enables tailored product support strategies and solutions for all six AAF pathways. With the ability now to tailor product support solutions, PMs and PSMs are better equipped to increase operational readiness and reduce sustainment costs.

It is important to note that regardless of the pathway, all product support strategies should be performance-based solutions that effectively and affordably satisfy Warfighter requirements by optimizing readiness and operational capability. They should leverage the best mix of government and commercial providers’ capabilities, capacities, and expertise to deliver the “package of support functions required to field and maintain the readiness and operational capability of covered systems, subsystems, and components, including all functions related to covered system readiness.”

Figure 1. The Adaptive Acquisition Framework

The requirement for performance-based solutions is addressed in statute as well as DoD Directive 5000.01, which calls for performance-based life-cycle product support. Previous versions of acquisition policy (DoDI 5000.02) and initiatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense directed PMs and PSMs to develop performance-based logistics (PBL) strategies and solutions. The new DoDI 5000.91 uses “performance based life cycle product support” consistent with the current DoDD 5000.01. However, it is important to understand that regardless of which term is used, both refer to the same attributes and tenets. DoDI 5000.91 promotes the same critical thinking, attributes, and tenets used previously in referencing PBL strategies and solutions.

So what is PBL? Is it a strategy, a solution, or a contract? It is all three. Programmatically, PBL is an outcome-based support strategy and associated solution that delivers integrated and affordable product support that satisfies Warfighter requirements while reducing operating and support costs.

As an alternative to “transactional” product support (e.g., “paying for eaches,” or small units), PBL addresses a fundamental misalignment between product support providers and their customers by incentivizing providers to reduce demand for logistics (e.g., by improving system reliability) and reducing costs (e.g., through process improvement), or both. When applied to industry, performance-based logistics contracts deliver Warfighter requirements and incentivize product support providers to reduce costs through innovation. While programmatically all product support strategies should be performance based, performance-based logistics contracts are utilized when analysis indicates they can effectively reduce cost and improve performance. They are structured to specific program needs and may evolve throughout the life cycle.

All product support strategies should be performance-based solutions that effectively and affordably satisfy Warfighter requirements.

In troubleshooting lighting problems in trucks, mechanics often must remove the steering wheel to access the wiring. Staff Sgt. Kyle Owens designed a tool to do so that avoids damaging the truck. Source: U.S. Marine Corps

A PBL contract is not synonymous with contractor logistics support (CLS). CLS signifies the “who” of providing support, not the “how” of the business model. CLS is support provided by a contractor, whether or not the arrangement is structured around Warfighter outcomes with associated incentives. PBL arrangements, on the other hand, are tied to Warfighter outcomes and integrate the various product support elements (e.g. supply support, sustaining engineering, maintenance, etc.) with appropriate incentives and metrics.

PBL arrangements also may be memorandums of understanding or memorandums of agreement with government providers and integrators as well as contracts with industry. While public sector providers may respond to a different set of incentives than industry, incentives such as additional workload, capital investment, or training/upskilling are effective.

PBL strategies have been used throughout DoD for more than two decades, as noted in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, which stated, “DoD will implement PBL to compress the supply chain and improve readiness for major weapon systems and commodities.” Earlier this year in her memo requesting nominations for the DoD PBL Award, Stacy Cummings, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acquisition) and Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, said: “PBL is a key DoD strategy for delivering integrated, affordable, performance-based product support solutions designed to deliver Warfighter requirements and reduce cost. The tenets of PBL incentivize productivity and innovation in industry and government.”

An airman services the main landing gear of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Travis Air Force Base in California.
Source: U.S. Air Force

The DoD PBL Award, given every year from 2005 to present (with the exception of 2018), has recognized PBL winners across the Army, Air Force, Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and Defense Logistics Agency for product support solutions that improved readiness at the same or better cost and demonstrated exceptional public-private partnering arrangements with industry at the system, sub-system, and component level.

A complete list of the DoD PBL Award winners and their accomplishments is available on the DAU website. For further information on performance-based logistics, please consult “One-Stop Shop for PBL Resources, References, and Training”.

In summary, the new DoDI 5000.91 is dedicated to developing, implementing, and managing product support solutions for our weapon systems. It stresses that critical thinking and fact-based analysis are the keys to developing and fielding a successful performance-based product support solution that effectively and affordably satisfies Warfighter requirements.

Product support is a key component of weapon system development, implementation, and management. PMs and PSMs are tasked with product support across the weapon system life cycle and will collaborate with many stakeholders to ensure that the Warfighter has the capability and readiness needed for success in any scenario.

A machinist’s mate checks the brine flow meter on a reverse osmosis unit aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin.
Source: U.S. Navy









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SMITH is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Product Support.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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