Several participants even noted that, based on past experience, advisory recommendations to DOD or individual services that addressed technology solutions only were highly unlikely to be implemented. Technology R&D recommendations, they argued, should instead be presented in the context of current business models and practices in DOD, including funding processes linked to congressional appropriations. Throughout the workshop, and particularly in the question and discussion periods, various participants commented on linkages between potential technology approaches and policy or culture issues that would have to be addressed to make the technology approach effective.
Several participants described how de facto responsibility for key decisions that affect downstream (after system acquisition) availability of parts and materials, environmental issues, and other sustainment challenges has shifted over time, from systems engineering offices within DOD and military service program offices to the prime contractors. One participant thought that the new Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) could help bring some of that responsibility, as well as the engineering expertise to exercise it, back within the Air Force. However, other comments were more pessimistic about the likelihood of the trend reversing, given budget constraints and the necessity of finding acquisition cost savings.
In describing the challenge of transitioning systems from acquisition to sustainment (see Theme 4), Dr. Stevens said that different views on which organization is responsible for transitioning the technology into sustainment applications are part of the challenge, but problems related to how expenditures are categorized for appropriations (which costs can be covered out of which pot of money) are at least as important. Another participant suggested that Extended Availability of Funds Authority, if it could be applied to cost savings from improvements in sustainment practices and technology, might help ease funding constraints. Other participants remarked on the difficulty of planning and implementing a long-term program for more efficient and effective sustainment of legacy systems when the funding for such sustainment activities was short term (1-year funding for some types of sustainment activities).
In response to the discussion of recycling scarce material as one response to material shortages, one participant recounted how current DOD regulations led to abandonment of what had been a successful program for recycling the rhenium-containing alloys in replaced Air Force jet engines and engine parts. Another participant contrasted that policy constraint with commercial industry practices that enable the same parts to be fully recycled.