A central tenet of Lean is that the entire organization needs to focus on what creates value for the end customer, and the use of resources for any other goal is a waste. Implicit in this formulation is that sufficient effort should be expended to preserve customer value, but no more. Continuing with the Lean theme, the overall goal needs to be supported by high-level metrics that are tied to the end user—in the Air Force case, the person who pulls the trigger. These metrics need not be complicated. One participant noted that in the commercial airline industry he focused every day on three metrics: (1) safety; (2) regulatory compliance; and (3) basic operational numbers, such as number of aircraft out of service. Throughout the workshop, examples were given of Air Force metrics that reflect consumption of resources (e.g., number of sorties or flight hours), with the implicit assumption that more consumption is better, rather than focusing on value for the mission or the end user. The focus is more often on output than outcome. In the NAVAIR example, the metric became “aircraft ready for tasking based on missions completed.” This metric, which evolved over time, focused not just on the readiness of aircraft flying missions at a given time, but also on the number available for training and for future missions. It thus minimized the practice of cannibalizing inactive aircraft in order to keep deployed aircraft flying. Finally, several participants noted that metrics need to be established for comptrollers that go beyond dollars obligated.2
One consequence of the program-oriented, stovepiped structure of the Air Force is the inability to set budget priorities based on cost to the enterprise as a whole; i.e., to answer the question, If the Air Force has only one additional dollar to spend, where should it be spent? The Air Force has no way of understanding and tracking total cost. The canonical example discussed at the workshop was the issue of corrosion. If, indeed, corrosion accounts for 30 percent of the Air Force sustainment budget, as some studies have suggested, a strong case can be made that the next dollar should be spent on a program to address it. With respect to sustainment, there is no mechanism for looking at budgets across programs, and, indeed, AFMC does not have visibility into ACC’s sustainment budget. During the workshop, it was noted that a number of budget metrics are being tracked because of legislative or other requirements, such as non-mission-capable hours and contractor logistics support, but it was pointed out that these are irrelevant to the question of how best to reduce total sustainment cost to the Air Force. Some participants expressed that a broader view of costs is required to encompass costs to accomplish the mission of the joint force and total sustainment cost.
One concern expressed by a workshop participant related to the fragmented approach to costs in the Air Force is the difficulty of translating legitimate needs into a convincing business case for funding. One participant expressed the need for a standard tool for doing this, stressing that it would be only a tool and need not be complicated. An important corollary is the need to track actual costs and compare them with projected costs to verify that the
2The transformation of the Naval Aviation Enterprise went well beyond solely the application of Lean principals and into wide ranging organizational and cultural changes.