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1 Introduction Each year, the Air Force faces a growing gap between the sustainment needs of its weapons and its annual sustainment budget. Overall 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 in part to aging of an aircraft fleet (the average age is 23 years) that is suffering from increasing corrosion and fatigue cracking, with the attendant difficulty of finding replacement parts that are no longer in production and software written in languages that are no longer used. Costs are also rising due to the need to support higher-performance aircraft and new capabilities provided by more complex and sophisticated systems, such as the latest intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) 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. One workshop presenter suggested that the cost of ownership may be more threatening to aircraft than the enemy. Several participants noted 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. These sustainment concerns are not new. The issue has been extensively studied, including in recent studies by the Air Force Studies Board of the National Research Council (NRC) and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.1,2 There is recognition that part of the answer lies in bringing consideration of a weapon system’s entire life cycle into the early planning and design phases of the weapon’s acquisition process. Design choices such as materials, fasteners, and so on can have a big impact on maintenance costs, and principles, such as modular design and quick disconnects between modules, can aid in reducing disassembly and replacement costs. Numerous recommendations have also been made that address the way the Air Force organizes and manages its sustainment efforts—with many suggesting that the Air Force should 1 NRC. 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. 2 Air 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. 3
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manage sustainment as an integrated enterprise, rather than as a series of parallel efforts for the various weapons programs. The Air Force has begun to take a more integrated view of sustainment through, for example, consolidating sustainment responsibilities within the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) and organizing itself around eight core functions, each with an individual designated as a core function lead integrator. It remains to be seen whether these organizational changes will help to break down barriers to a more integrated approach to sustainment, although several workshop participants commented that there were opportunities for positive change. WORKSHOP TERMS OF REFERENCE The terms of reference for this workshop are given in Box 1-1. BOX 1-1 Terms of Reference An ad hoc committee will plan and convene one 3-day public workshop to (1) discuss how science and technology can reduce aircraft sustainment costs in the Air Force and (2) review costs in maintenance, upgrades, and aging aircraft in the Air Force. The committee will develop the agenda for the workshop, select and invite speakers and discussants, and moderate the discussions. In organizing the workshop, the committee might also consider additional topics close to and in line with those mentioned above. The workshop will use a mix of individual presentations, panels, breakout discussions, and question-and-answer sessions to develop an understanding of the relevant issues. Key stakeholders will be identified and invited to participate. One individually authored workshop summary document will be prepared by a designated rapporteur. WORKSHOP STRUCTURE, SCOPE, AND APPROACH The 3-day workshop, which occurred on December 5-7, 2012, in Washington, D.C., consisted of a series of presentations by invited speakers (biosketches of the committee members are provided in Appendix A; the workshop agenda is provided in Appendix B), with each presentation followed by general discussion. Broadly, the first day was devoted to presentations by Air Force and Department of Defense academic personnel; the second day to presentations on experiences within the other services and industry contractors; and the final half-day to discussion among all participants. The original intent of this workshop was to focus on how the Air Force’s science and technology (S&T) dollars should be spent to reduce sustainment costs, as suggested by Task 1 in the terms of reference (Box 1-1). Indeed, the workshop participants did hear from representatives of the Air Force Research Laboratory on its S&T investments and from several 4
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presenters in the military services and in industry regarding cases in which technology insertion had saved sustainment dollars. Chapter 2 of this report provides a summary of the presentations delivered at this workshop and of the discussion that followed. Chapter 3 summarizes the discussion that occurred on the last day, organized into the following five general topic areas: (1) leadership and management; (2) mission statement and metrics; (3) setting budget priorities and funding; (4) relationships with the contractor community; and (5) culture issues and training. 5