Under mounting pressure to lower the cost of maintaining weapon systems, the Defense Department has launched
an extensive study that seeks to set realistic requirements for
weapon readiness and reliability.
Although details on the study are sketchy at best, a senior Pentagon
official said the intent is to bring more efficiency into maintenance
operations and to challenge an entrenched mentality among the military
services that advocates readiness at any cost.
It was apparent to me that there is a way to achieve readiness cost effectively, and a way to achieve readiness at any cost, said David V. Pauling, assistant deputy under secretary of defense for maintenance policy, programs and resources.
Pauling took over his current post in June 2004. He is a veteran Defense Department aircraft program manager and a former helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directed Paulings office to come up with an accurate estimate of the Defense Departments readiness needs, based on the Pentagon strategic guidance to commanders and contingency plans.
The essential question, Pauling asked, is how many systems do we need to have ready at any given time?
Ultimately, he said, he hopes the answer to that question will shape the military services budget priorities. The process of collecting the needed information to assess readiness requirements could take months. We are in the process of looking across the Defense Department to determine whether we have the right goal, the right readiness, Pauling said. Perhaps we dont know in all our systems what that readiness requirement really is, versus what is in the planning guidance.
The desire to cut costs, however, does not mean that the Defense Department is considering changing the role of government depots in maintaining weapon systems. The legislation now in place mandates that 50 percent of the Pentagons maintenance work be allocated to public depots. The other half can be contracted out to private firms.
The 50/50 split hasnt come into the discussion as a cost factor, Pauling said. The 50/50 is one form of partnership. It seems to be a pretty good standard for what we need, to ensure we have the right amount of core capability to keep U.S. military forces prepared to go to war.