This week DID’s Olivier Travers is attending WBR’s 2013 Defense Logistics event. Email me if you’d like to meet up or submit logistics themes for us to look into.
Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek has been heading the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for 2 years and presented an update on the agency’s challenges and progress during WBR’s 2013 Defense Logistics conference. He candidly talked about how DoD at large, and DLA specifically, had benefited from “budget largesse” in recent years, especially with supplemental budgets (i.e. OCO / war spending) and had grown “thicker in the middle” as a result. In plain admission of the government’s shortcomings, the development of a “culture of judiciousness” to apply better judgment and save money is necessary within DLA. This is a welcome evolution in public discourse after so much hand-wringing about sequestration and befuddlement at the very idea of having to operate within financial constraints.
VADM Harnitchek was equally frank in recognizing that part of the agency’s focus will translate into margin pressure for contractors. Like other DoD senior officials, he’s broadcasting a clear signal that budget constraints are expected to stay and everyone should learn to operate within them. This should lead to increased reliance on commercial capabilities and less DoD resources, in relative terms. To that effect, fuel and food are pretty much already run “factory to foxhole” through commercial suppliers.
As of 2002, the RAF had 19 of its 4-engined VC10 aerial tankers in service. These sleek aircraft with the unusual engine arrangement form the backbone of its aerial tanker fleet, and continued to do so for about another decade until the new Airbus A330 MRTTs began entering service as part of a pathbreaking private-public partnership deal.
VC10s also had an early role in the RAF’s pursuit of a “future contracting for availability” approach across its fleets, which aims to pay for available planes rather than for man-hours and spare parts. In September 2013, the British-designed VC10 fleet reached the end of its contributions to operations and to military contracting, and retired.
The ship was deployed on operations, and proved out a number of the concepts behind her construction, but questions about the long-term durability of composite hulls prevented the type’s adoption into full US Navy service. The ship has been pushed to a maritime technology experimentation and demonstration role, but her saga remains interesting.
In his keynote, Dale Bennett, EVP of Mission Systems and Training at Lockheed Martin, listed a few things DoD and industry can do to get better results despite increased funding constraints.
First, Bennett thinks that sharing technologies across programs can not only improve interoperability, but also reduce sustainment costs, presumably thanks to shared spare parts and better familiarity (because of repeat exposure) from the people doing the maintenance. AEGIS and its various spin-offs (e.g. AEGIS Ashore) is the program that he used to illustrate this trend.
In late May 2013, Thales UK signed a 10-year, GBP 600 million Sensor Support Optimisation Project (SSOP) with the Ministry of Defence. It extends the 2003 Contractor Logistics Support deal that covered electronic warfare/ ESM and sonar system support on an array of submarines and surface ships.
SSOP coverage includes all British submarine classes (SSN Trafalgar and Astute classes, SSBN Vanguard Class), Type 45 Daring Class destroyers, Type 23 Duke Class frigates, and the Hunt and Sandown Classes of minehunting vessels. It also covers all visual systems (periscopes etc.) for all Royal Navy submarines, which had been a separate contract with Thales UK’s optronics business in Glasgow. This progression is familiar to readers who have followed British Future Contracting for Availability practices over the last several years.
After some bad experiences with its up-armored Mercedes “Gelendevagen” in Afghanistan, Norway decided that they needed patrol vehicles with better protection. In 2006, therefore, they placed an order for 25 blast-resistant Iveco MLV/LMV vehicles, which are called Lynx by the Italians and Panther by the UK.
Deliveries began in 2006, and the vehicle’s performance in Afghanistan has led to additional orders over the years. A 2013 buy brings Norway’s order total to 170.
The rising cost of maintenance has made it a greater concern to the world’s militaries, and new contract vehicles are reflecting that. Under the C-17 GSP/GISP, Boeing has total system support responsibility for the big transport aircraft, including materiel management and depot maintenance, to support customer fleets around the world. The goal is total aircraft sustainment support under a single contract, in order to achieve improvements in mission readiness, while reducing operating and support costs.
H-3 Sea Kings are used in a variety of roles by the Royal Navy and RAF, from the transport of Royal Marines (Mk 4, Mk 6CR), to search & rescue (Mk 3/3A and Mk 5), Airborne Early Warning (Mk 7), and classic utility roles. These medium helicopters are known for their ability to float, for their ability to fly though icing conditions, and for stability and fine control. One interesting TV show had a Sea King SAR helicopter maneuver its rescue crewman into position, then hover in place while he poured champagne into a glass that was held steady by the TV host on the ground.
Britain’s Sea Kings have been updated with some frequency, and are projected to remain in service until 2016. Many will be replaced by Agusta-Westland’s Merlin helicopter, a variant of the AW101. Until then, these old helicopters need to be maintained, and the Ministry of Defence needed a way to keep the cost under control. Hence the Sea King Integrated Operational Support program (SKIOS).
The UK Ministry of Defence’s concerted effort to reform its defense support operations continues. Overall, “future contracting for availability,” rather than paying for parts and labor hours, remains the overall direction. The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, which provided a number of services in and around the Royal Navy’s major ports, was outsourced to Serco in a GBP 1 billion December 2007 contract.
Now, a deal that could last for 30 years is providing provide through-life support for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of Britain’s oilers, supply ships, and landing ships.
Under ATTAC (Availability Transformation: Tornado Aircraft Contract), BAE will take over depot-level support and maintenance for the RAF’s Tornado fleet, with the responsibility of ensuring that enough of Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike aircraft and Tornado F3 interceptors are available to fly, rather than paying BAE for selling spare parts and maintenance hours.
This “future contracting for availability” approach is a major departure from traditional military and commercial practice; but it has been proven on a smaller scale within the UK’s Tornado fleet, and a number of other platforms are already operating under these types of contracts in Britain. BAE hopes to achieve the required availability levels using a combination of embedded diagnostics, rear-echelon repair process improvements, and what BAE executive and former Air Vice-Marshall Steve Nicoll referred to as the “Dirk Gently approach” to problem diagnosis and maintenance during the September 2006 TFD Group Conference. DID explains what Nicoll meant, and discusses the ATTAC contract and its follow-ons in more detail.