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Zero-Sustainment Aircraft for the U.S. Air Force Overview Overall Air Force weapon system sustainment (WSS) costs are growing at more than 4 percent per year, while budgets have remained essentially flat. The cost growth is due partly to aging of the aircraft fleet and partly to the cost of supporting higher-performance aircraft and new capabilities provided by more complex and sophisticated systems, such as the latest intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms. Furthermore, the expectation for the foreseeable future is that sustainment budgets are likely to decrease so that the gap between budgets and sustainment needs will likely continue to grow wider. Most observers accept that the Air Force will have to adopt new approaches to WSS if it is going to address this problem and remain capable of carrying out its missions. In this context, the original intent of this 3-day workshop was to focus on ways that science and technology (S&T) could help the Air Force reduce sustainment costs. However, as the workshop evolved, the discussions focused more and more on Air Force leadership, management authority, and culture as the more critical factors that need to change in order to solve sustainment problems. Many participants who spoke at the workshop commented that while S&T investments could certainly help—particularly if applied in the early stages (“to the left”) of the product life cycle—what is also important is adopting a transformational management approach—down to the shop level—that defines the user-driven goals of the enterprise, empowers people to achieve them, and holds them accountable. Several workshop participants urged Air Force leaders to start the process now, even though it will take years to percolate down through the entire organization. These sustainment concerns are not new and have been studied extensively, including in recent reports from the National Research Council’s Air Force Studies Board and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.1,2 ___________________ 1NRC. 2011. Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s Aircraft Sustainment Needs in the Future and Its Strategy to Meet These Needs. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13177. 2Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. 2011. Sustaining Air Force Aging Aircraft into the 21st Century. Available at http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA562696. Last accessed December 27, 2012.
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Zero-Sustainment Aircraft for the U.S. Air Force POSSIBLE ACTION ITEMS FOR AIR FORCE CONSIDERATION Box O-1 contains potential actions that could be implemented within 6 months, which were suggested by various workshop participants to enable the Air Force to begin to address its ever-increasing sustainment costs. BOX O-1 Possible Action Items Suggested by One Workshop Participant for Air Force Consideration A. Initiate a sustainment pilot project, championed by the Air Force chief of staff and led by the Air Force Materiel Command commander, partnering with another Major Command, using the Navy’s NAVAIR sustainment program as a template to:1 1. Manage Air Force weapon system sustainment (WSS) as an integrated enterprise that cuts across program boundaries. 2. Define a user-driven outcome the Air Force intends to achieve for the selected system, and describe the high-level supporting metrics that will be used to measure progress toward this outcome. 3. Decide who is the single individual or office responsible for managing Air Force WSS costs. 4. Define a simple, standard tool to use for a system’s sustainment business case analysis that includes visibility over all actual sustainment costs incurred. 5. Establish or enhance transparency of total sustainment costs across the system’s life cycle as well as across all Air Force sustainment and operational organizations. B. Utilize the CORONA conference2 mechanism to reach agreement among 4-star process owners as to the outcome metric to be used for the pilot program. ___________________ 1The transformation of the Naval Aviation Enterprise went well beyond solely the application of “Lean” principles and into wide-ranging organizational and cultural changes. 2CORONA conferences are held three times a year allowing the secretary of the Air Force, the chief of staff, and senior Air Force military leaders to come together for open discussions on issues relevant to the Air Force's future.