My writings on complex system sustainment owe much to our Minuteman III ICBM force and its mission of nuclear deterrence. So it should be helpful to provide a few words on that system, its mission, and the associated readiness factors. At the same time, there is a pervasive error among sustainment organizations that their mission is sustainment. It is not. The sustainment organization’s mission is the exact same mission as the warfighter.
The complex system sustainment management model insists that you know the total definition of your system, the mission that system serves, and the associated readiness factors. Without this basic knowledge, you have no hope of finding emerging threats to that system and its mission.
For instance, WWII strategic bombers, like B-24s, have a mission of penetrating behind enemy lines to destroy a nation’s industrial capability to wage war. To carry out that mission, they must be available, work reliably, and deliver bombs accurately. Thus, the B-24’s readiness factors are availability, reliability, and accuracy. People (in this case, WWII buffs) might like to debate adding or subtracting readiness factors. Within the context of the model, this debate is encouraged within sustainment organizations as it is essential to ensuring a common and precise understanding. When this happens, what’s not in debate is that emerging defects in the bombsight endangers the execution of the mission, specifically accuracy.
The mission of the Minuteman III ICBM is strategic deterrence. Its readiness factors are availability, reliability, accuracy, and hard against nuclear attack. Like the B-24, the Minuteman III acts in concert with other systems to achieve the strategic deterrence mission. That is, B-24s performed bombing raids, but so did B-25’s, B-17s, and other US and allied bombers. Within the Allied strategic deterrence mission, Sea Launch Ballistic Missiles (like the one shown in the photo), and manned bombers also support the mission. A case could be made that missile defense systems should be included as well. This multitude of systems supporting one mission does not contradict the sustainment model’s focus on precisely defining your system and making the system’s mission your mission.
As far as the ICBM mission, many books have been written on this subject. But here is a very short explanation. The triad of weapon systems is meant to provide a stable, enduring deterrent. Manned bombers provide a very obvious and recallable nuclear attack force when the country needs to make our intentions crystal clear. The Sea Launched Ballistic Missiles are extremely stealthy and are expected to survive any intensity of warfare. Land-based Ballistic Missiles provide a clear target. Any country considering an full scale attack on our homeland would have to attack those sites first, making their intentions crystal clear. But they would not survive the retaliation from the surviving ICBMs and the Sea Launched Missiles.
From this explanation, over-simplified as it is, we can see that a great strength of the land-based missiles is their numbers spread out and buried across vast regions of our northern tier States. They only present a lucrative target if the adversary believes they will work reliably under all conditions. Since their main strength lies in NOT being used on a daily basis, much of this credibility rests with the sustainment organization.
At the same time, the remoteness of these sites encourages a sustainment approach that recognizes the need to think far ahead about emerging risks and potential mitigations.
Thus, key features of a good sustainment approach are necessities in the ICBM world. These features can be applied to great effect with any complex system.
Send me a comment about your complex system, especially if it is not a weapon system. And we’ll write up a post here about your mission and readiness factors.