Pretty happy with the first 300 words of my chapter on Minuteman III Sustainment… comments?
In the broadest sense, sustainment is maintaining mission capability via effective system support.
In the case of Minuteman ICBMs, the necessity of designing ICBMs drove the military and contractors to take the fledgling approaches of Systems Engineering and refine it into the respected discipline it is today. Similarly, and by necessity, ICBMs also took the pieces of materiel management, such as supply, depot maintenance, and item management, and created a complete sustainment discipline. The fundamental difference is where attention is focused.
In the case of systems engineering during design, development, and testing, attention is constantly focused on how the system must perform when built. System engineers call this the “design baseline”. In sustainment, attention is on the mission. Sustainment experts call this the “capabilities baseline”. The capabilities baseline comes from the users, not the designers. That is, as soon as a weapon system is fielded, deployed, or employed, the warfighter begins to form a strong opinion about its capabilities based on personal experience. In this manner, the two disciplines are closely linked by the fundamental concept of “what is the true requirement?” Builders cannot disappoint the designers. Sustainers cannot disappoint the warfighter and the warfighter’s mission. Great sustainers are also great systems engineers applying the discipline in new ways.
Curiously, in both ICBM systems engineering and ICBM sustainment, there was no other path to success. In the first case, the system was much too complex to be developed and fielded without systems engineering. In the second case, the system was too unwieldy to keep it economically employed, and supporting the mission, without an integrated approach to sustainment.
Specifically, simply staying busy ensuring efficient supply, effective engineering drawing updates, timely maintenance, or any other material management function is not a formula for successful sustainment. Success requires that the most important actions occur first and in concert with real needs.
Expert sustainers acquire a sense of priority by keeping the warfighter’s mission foremost. Then, from that perspective, they observe and assess the weapon system. They do this to identify risks to the mission. The goal is to mitigate those identified risks before they are realized. If risks to the mission are realized, the warfighter is impacted and the mission suffers.