It seems like a simple, and eminently sensible change. Instead of paying for hours of service and spare parts for military platforms, and trying to forecast usage, set required reliability levels. Then implement public-private partnerships and pay defense contractors a fixed rate per year, with incentives and penalties centered around required in-service rates. Sensible? Yes, and financially attractive because it turns large portions of the maintenance budget into pre-contracted, fixed costs. Simple? No.
Minor complications include the critical importance of in-service availability as something that extends beyond a mere contract term, and the need to avoid bankrupting one’s contractors after they have accepted most of your fleet’s maintenance risk. To which one must add factors such as highly variable per-year usage rates for equipment, the lack of adequate information to make accurate forecasts on either side of the table, the importance of creating the right incentives around long-term maintenance so this is not skimped, and the need to factor maintainability into future equipment contracts in a much more integrated fashion. Each one of those aspects, taken by itself, represents a major challenge. Together, they present formidable obstacles to success.
Faced with constrained budgets and rising maintenance costs, however, the British Ministry of Defence has spent the last several years creating exactly this kind of “future contracting for availability” through-life maintenance framework for platform after platform. The efforts of exceptional individuals like former Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Bairsto have made a tremendous difference, and so has the extensive organizational commitment of multiple MoD agencies and front-line commanders. Britain currently leads the world in this field, even as the rising curve of aging defense equipment throughout the Western world forces defense ministries and departments to confront the same issues. This Spotlight article provides an index of DID’s coverage in this area.
Gen. Arthur Lichte, the commander of USAF Air Mobility Command, recently placed the stakes behind the $30+ billion, 175 aircraft KC-X aerial refueling tanker contract in perspective, and discussed past aerial tanker program issues, as he addressed the Logistics Officer Association. He began by discussing the 707-based KC-135E fleet. Their tires must be rotated every 7 days, and every 45 days they must be towed and their engines run to keep them in a “flyable status” as directed by law. Will they fly? No.
“For example, we need to retire our KC-135 (Stratotanker) E models — their struts need repair. At the end of this year, we’ll have 85 of them parked on our ramps, and we don’t fly them. This type of maintenance of old aircraft is costing money. As a matter of fact, it costs about $100,000 per aircraft per year. We need some relief from this.”
He added that even if the first KC-X aircraft is delivered on time in 2011, and 15 a year are delivered after that, the last KC-135 will leave the fleet in 2048, at an age of about 87 years. However, if the program runs into any problems and slips by just 3 years, and Air Force officials are unable to procure 15 aircraft a year, the last KC-135 could retire in the year 2082, when it would be more than 120 years old. DID examines the calculations involved, then cover’s Lichte’s comments re: past upgrade efforts for the tanker fleet and the C-5/C-17 decision that is pending…
W. G. Yates and Sons Construction Co. in Oxford, MS received a $73.8 million firm-fixed price contract for the design and reconstruction of 9 projects at Keesler Air Force Base including a training aids facility, postal center, fire crash rescue station, munitions inspection facility, library, consolidated open mess, recreation center, student dorm, and a refueler maintenance facility. All were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and the contract contains 2 options totaling $23.6 million, which may be exercised within 180 calendar days, bringing the total contract amount to $97.4 million.
Keesler AFB bills itself as the “electronics training center of excellence” for the USAF, and is the home of Keesler Medical Center, the 2nd largest USAF medical facility. Work will be performed in Biloxi, Miss. and is expected to be complete by February 2010. This contract was competitively procured as a 2-phase design build via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website, with 8 proposals received in Phase I, 5 selected to proceed to Phase II, and 2 proposals received in Phase II. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast in Jacksonville, FL (N69450-08-C-0754).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently ruled that a service member who received notice that she was required to undergo a random urinalysis test, and who e-mailed several other people to discuss her strategies for beating the tests to avoid discovery of her drug use, was not sufficiently informed of the DoD policy that employees have no right of privacy when using government computer systems. It set aside the findings, and her sentence.
In response, the US Department of Defense has replaced its decade-old banner warning with a new one. The banner notifies users that their systems may be monitored for “penetration testing, (communications security), monitoring, network defense, quality control, and employee misconduct, law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations,” adding that all security systems in place are there to provide security for the benefit of the government, not to provide personal privacy to employees. A related notice will appear on government BlackBerry devices and other personal digital assistants and personal electronic devices.
Members of the defense community sending emails to colleagues in the Pentagon, or otherwise working with DoD employees, need to keep these things in mind. USAF release.