Finally, some participants expressed the view that restrictions on how money can be spent from the various accounts associated with sustainment (“color of money”) were a barrier to reducing total sustainment costs. For example, in the case of substituting a new part for an old part, if a new part has the same form, fit, and function as the old part, the substitute can be funded from the operations and maintenance account; if not, it is considered a modification, and must be funded from the acquisitions and modifications account. A case was cited in which an internal engine part that would improve performance was proposed to replace an older part. However, substitution of the new part could not be funded because it did not have exactly the same form, fit, and function as the old part and was, therefore, considered to be a modification, even though the outside profile of the engine remained the same.
Although it was not a major theme of the workshop, a company representative raised a “red flag” regarding what he perceived to be deteriorating relationships between government managers and the contractor community and what this could mean to Air Force sustainment in the future. This participant noted that it is difficult to get a feel for the Air Force contracting process, due in part to the distributed authority. He stated that many companies having both commercial and government businesses are rethinking their involvement with the government because of all of the audits and red tape they have to deal with. He cited one case in which a government request for information had to be changed because small businesses could not compete. In the past, he asserted that communications between the Air Force and industry were much better than today. Government personnel used to be mentored on how to work with industry, but in his view this has all gone away.
This situation contrasts sharply with the strong relationships that exist between his company and its suppliers in the commercial world. All are working together to improve safety and compliance, and it is rarely necessary to negotiate contracts to improve an engine. There is much more freedom to act. As a result, this company much prefers working with other companies and is having difficulty staffing positions relating to military programs. There are no engineers waiting “pencils in hand” to contribute. In his view, the warfighters are getting less. While the evidence provided by this participant was anecdotal, the passion with which these views were expressed was notable.
According to one participant with experience in the NAVAIR Lean management experiment, the biggest barrier to changing Air Force culture and breaking through the stovepiped organization is likely to be the egos of the managers involved. The current incentives reward the best stovepipe, except during wartime. He argued that to adopt Lean management, the culture will have to change—subordination to the goal of the enterprise