the budget is spent on sustaining weapons systems that were procured in the past rather than on acquisition programs per se. And we can’t leave that much money out of the better buying power equation [emphasis added].4

In May 2010, DoD introduced the Defense Efficiencies Initiative that seeks to “increase efficiencies, reduce overhead costs, and eliminate redundant functions in order to improve the effectiveness of the DoD enterprise. This effort is focused on reprioritizing how DoD can use resources to more effectively support and sustain the force [emphasis added].”5 The Defense Efficiencies Initiative recognizes the need for improved efficiency and effectiveness to support and sustain the force. This study highlights many sustainment issues and offers recommendations aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Air Force weapon system sustainment enterprise.

The Air Force weapon system sustainment enterprise consists of a highly skilled workforce but operates without modern enterprise resource planning tools and with a supply chain that is not structured according to business best practices. In fact, Air Force weapon system sustainment, including the demand to maintain aircraft organically and by contractor logistics support, dwarfs that of commercial airlines and other nations’ Air Forces. The sustainment posture is determined by the number and variety of aircraft, the technology of the systems involved, and the global deployment of the fleet. The fleet’s diversity, which ranges from aircraft designed and deployed in the 1950s to the world’s most advanced high-performance fighters, weighs on the enterprise’s operation. The enterprise has become more complex over time not only because of the fleet’s increased growth and diversity, but also because of global politics and regulations.

The Air Force has been operating on a wartime-like footing for the past 20 years. This extended period of intense operation has been further complicated by multiple theaters of operation and by demand for more diverse and long-duration fighter missions; worldwide airlift; long-range bomber sorties; diverse intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft; and extensive aerial refueling sorties resulting from increasing geopolitical complexity.

Today, sustainment activities are undertaken by numerous offices and organizations, including the Air Force Secretariat; the Air Force Air Staff; the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) and its subordinate Product Centers; Air Logistics


4 Ashton Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. 2011. “Pentagon Efficiency Initiatives.” Remarks given at the Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., April 20. Available at Accessed May 2, 2011.

5 DoD. 2010. Defense Efficiencies Initiative. Available at Accessed April 21, 2011.

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