Under the concept of all-domain warfare, “platforms don’t exist as a single entity. “A weapons system can be used, for example, as a node to relay information or provide lethal effects on the battlefield.”
Pentagon should not judge weapon systems on “overly simplistic metrics” but adopt a more holistic evaluation that weighs a weapon’s cost and capabilities against the total costs of achieving the mission.
“All we ever hear is, that the F-22 and the F-35 are expensive. But is that really the case if a handful of them can accomplish what it otherwise take dozens of less capable aircraft to achieve?”
When we think about costs our goal should be to use the least amount of force to yield the greatest result. A new approach dubbed “cost-per-effect,” has been proposed for determining a value for high-end weapon systems, in particular fifth-generation and future combat aircraft.
Services should consider including harnessing cost-per-effect assessments as a key performance parameter within the Department of Defense’s Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) requirements process.”
“A cost-per-effect assessment measures the sum of what it takes to net a desired mission result, not just a single system’s acquisition and support costs without necessary context surrounding the capability’s actual use.”
The Case for Cost-Per-Effect Analysis,” argues that the current evaluation process especially short-changes highly effective fifth-generation aircraft.
“Current measures favor lowest up-front per-unit cost (an ‘input’ measure) for a piece of equipment that may only address one facet of the kill chain without taking into consideration the mission-effectiveness of the particular system (an ‘output’ measure).
Applying a cost-per-effect assessment would help DoD make better choices when considering how to resource different service programs aimed at achieving similar effects like beyond-line-of-sight targeting.
The goal is to reset the baseline by which modern combat aircraft are judged as worthy in annual DoD budget battles.
The fifth-gen F-35 fighter, for example, currently is estimated to cost a whopping $35,000 per hour to operate; and each of the planes priced out at $77.9 million at the end of last year after years of much higher costs per unit.
DoD asked Congress for $11.4 billion for 79 of the Joint Strike Fighter variants, but Congress is fighting over whether to cut the program or pump it up.
Air Force should “prioritize solutions that yield maximum mission value and not rely on overly simplistic metrics, like cheapest per-unit acquisition cost or individual cost-per flying hour, as these may actually drive more expensive, less capable solutions.”
“Cost-per-effect” is defined as: “The total cost involved with achieving a specific mission outcome. This includes mission aircraft to execute the actual task, as well as direct support assets. These include aerial refueling tankers, electronic jamming platforms, and surface-to-air missile suppression efforts. It also includes aircrews and requisite infrastructure like basing and related maintenance support.”
“Strengthening Understanding of Industrial Base Capacity to Supply Product Provides Ability to Plan for More Realistic Estimates of Weapons Systems Utility/Effect in Future Missions”
New facility to expand the production of long-range standoff missiles, including the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range. This site is intended to help meet the demand for “large ongoing and expected orders” of air- or sea-launched standoff missiles.
For the site to meet expectations, the Pentagon needs to increase visibility into the supply chain supporting the production of these key munitions. Investments like the new site are a first step. But DoD needs to ensure the underlying industrial base can support the surge production of not just one munition, but multiple munitions systems simultaneously.
The knowledge and insight to properly assess industrial base capabilities requires not only data collection and curation, but the development and deployment of analytical capabilities designed to identify potential bottlenecks and offer strategies for mitigating such risks.
Inadequate inventories of long-range missiles have proven to be a contributor to unfavorable outcomes in recent wargames. In those simulations, we “run out of munitions fast,” hindering their ability to prevail in some scenarios.
Some experts warn that under current readiness conditions “U.S. could face a decisive military defeat.” The situation becomes more dire when considering a protracted conventional war, requiring a sustained surge across a number of munitions systems that rely on highly consolidated, and often fragile, supply chains. This is not a problem limited to munitions, as “America’s defense industrial base is designed for peacetime efficiency, not mass wartime production.”
The Defense Department needs more standoff munitions. But just as important, it needs the capability to recover quickly if its munitions reserves are rapidly depleted. Prohibitively long production lead-times of most key precision-guided munitions makes this proposition extremely difficult. The military requires an industrial base capable of maximizing production of a number of munitions simultaneously.
Currently, the Pentagon doesn’t have a department-wide understanding of the surge capacities and constraints in the defense industrial base. While individual program managers may understand the individual systems for which they are responsible, they are rarely aware of potentially competing demands.
The lack of leadership could create bottlenecks if a number of systems, some built on shared production lines, need to surge simultaneously. Military readiness plans should systematically account for industrial base realities that dramatically affect surge. Specifically, planners should consider risk factors like shared and limited production of select systems and components, sole sources, and foreign dependencies.
Without an enterprise-wide view of munitions challenges and possibilities, senior decision-makers will almost certainly be misinformed about the readiness and recovery risks facing the country.
The need to better plan for an unexpected disruption in the munitions supply chain is not new. As the past demonstrates, mobilization takes much longer than expected. Whether it’s unintentional e.g., industrial accident or deliberate e.g., kinetic attack, coercion, decisions not to export high-demand items, the United States cannot count upon having much time to prepare for an urgent threat. Rather, it needs to invest ahead of time to be able to surge production of different items at the same time.
For many items, and munitions in particular, investing in additional system integrator-level production may not be enough. System integrator facilities bring together all of the component and sub-component systems required for final missile assembly. They require sufficient inputs of components — inputs received on time and of requisite quality — from their suppliers in order to take full advantage of final assembly at maximum production rates.
The problem of not receiving all the needed components is often exacerbated at lower tiers of the supply chain as components become more specialized, often provided by very few, or perhaps, by one producer — a single point of failure.
Military planners frequently underestimate the time needed to achieve readiness. One reason is that they don’t take a realistic account of lower-tier capacity constraints and the competing demands for shared components. Additionally, unanticipated supply disruptions, like not being independent on components and materials, can make matters worse.
Several years ago, the Army’s expanded budget request for precision-guided munitions successfully stimulated a staffing and facility expansion where solid rocket motors are used in different precision-guided munitions.
This essential missile component has been a source of concern for the Pentagon. There are currently only two domestic suppliers of solid rocket motors used in the majority of the military’s missile systems, with foreign suppliers making up the balance for a small number of systems.
Surging the production of multiple systems at once may not be possible if an essential system component is provided by a single supplier. The inability to fully produce all munitions at maximum capacity could lead to internal conflicts within the Defense Department regarding which missile system takes priority. Understandably, warfighters want the munitions called for in operational plans, not simply the one that’s ready at the moment.
Supplying field-level troops with weapons requires a fundamental restructuring of industrial base planning and preparation practices. The Pentagon needs to build and aggressively maintain an enterprise-wide common operating picture of high-priority, precision-guided munitions supply chains. A continuously refreshed picture of these supply chains will help the military understand competing demands, bottlenecks, and potential supply disruptions at the lower tiers.
Today, individual munitions program managers do not systematically provide information to a central office in the Pentagon that can compare current and planned usage with the capacities of system integrators and component producers. The appropriate office to collect data on usage and capacities, especially among lower tier producers, is likely the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy.
Doing so would allow such information to be integrated and assessed continuously. It would also provide DoD planners and senior decision-makers with a more comprehensive picture of munitions readiness and how it is affected by competing demands and capacity constraints. According to the current National Defense Strategy, this is an increasingly important picture for the military to have in order to be able to act at the “speed of relevance.”
To construct a comprehensive picture of munitions readiness, the Defense Department needs to collect sufficient industrial base data and deploy advanced analytical tools to process the data. Using data and tools in tandem is the key to enabling analyses that identify supply chain bottlenecks, model outcomes of potential surge scenarios, and offer mitigation options.
While the Pentagon already has quite a bit of data, these data are not yet integrated to enable a department-wide view of supply chain capabilities, constraints, and cost-effective mitigation actions. Nor are the data structured in consistent ways for such purposes.
DoD already has several types of integrating analytic software available that can serve as the foundation for timely evidence-based assessments and investments of the sort decision-makers need. However, leveraging existing analytic tools requires institution-wide support and an overarching framework to collect and curate industrial base data and generate key outputs, especially realistic estimates of the time and actions needed to achieve readiness, on a continuous basis.
Developing and using a common operating picture for the Pentagon’s munitions data will be difficult. However, this kind of innovation could have several tangible benefits by generating a better understanding of supply disruption problems; identifying surge opportunities and limitations in mobilization and recovery scenarios; encouraging innovation to maintain and expand production capacity; targeting lower-tier suppliers that need investment to alleviate bottlenecks and maximize production; and offering realistic estimates of the time needed to achieve readiness targets.
Realistic estimates are a critical metric for war planners, particularly if supplies are disrupted. These forecasts will help inform back-up plans that may be needed in the event of munitions shortfalls.
Tasking warfighters with revising operational plans may be met with some resistance, but it’s one of many possible decisions that could be made to minimize the risk associated with insufficient inventories and to prevent the conflict from escalating beyond conventional weapons.
Such decisions might require the substitution of one missile for another when realistic estimates of the number of munitions actually available during a conflict indicate supplies are limited.
The Defense Department should develop an integrated department-wide issue paper for precision-guided munitions to inform the future years defense program development process. This type of directive paper would give decision-makers realistic assessments of the industrial base by integrating demands, supplies, and constraints for a portfolio of munitions, rather than a collection of missile-by-missile assessments.
DoD should also consider requiring system integrators to provide key capacity and component supplier data to the Pentagon as a condition of their future contracts.
The military should also base operational plans on realistic estimates of inventories for critical munitions. In this arena, the combatant commanders need to know how quickly they can expect to obtain more priority munitions in a crisis or major surge scenario.
Specifically, they need to be sure that estimates take account of competing demands at the lower tiers. Furthermore, combatant commanders should be made aware of foreign reliance for key components and materials at the lower tiers, particularly if that reliance is linked to likely adversaries in the crisis, and whether or not they are accounted for in estimates of time to readiness.
Realistic estimates are needed to properly configure war plans, including plans that account for potential munitions inventory rebuilds in a post-conflict environment.
DoD planners need a practical action plan to collect, integrate, and analyze the right kinds of data to develop the budget. The military would be better positioned to meet key readiness, mobilization, and recovery challenges in this new era of strategic competition if it develops and maintains a common operating picture of key precision-guided munitions and their underlying supply chains.
Taking this type of enterprise-wide approach will ensure that new manufacturing sites meet expectations to help the United States prepare for and recover from potential future conflicts. And, if done right, this approach could serve as a model for a more integrated treatment of supply chains in other key parts of the defense industrial base.
Several factors should be taken into account by the Air Force in developing such an assessment. First, and foremost, the overarching focus of all missions for “future high-end capabilities” should be on peer conflict.
Other factors include:
1. Precision effectors, both kinetic and non-kinetic
4. Electronic warfare
6. Processing power
7. Communication links
8. Fusion engines
9. Real-time command and control (C2)
10. Aircraft range and payload