September 16, 2013
The U.S. Air Force is rebalancing its repair programs to restore in-house management in hopes of reducing the cost to sustain its aircraft fleets and to take advantage of the benefits offered by industry.
The Air Force has in the past struggled to maintain its statutory limit of keeping at least 50% of its repair work; a decade ago, it was forced to waive compliance owing to an over-reliance on industry.
At that time, the service was pursuing total system performance responsibility contracts or contractor logistics support (CLS) arrangements in which industry was given wide authority for large fleets. As a result, however, the cost of developing and maintaining fleets grew substantially, and the unique skills required for this work eroded in the Air Force.
The service is now looking to more closely manage its own fleets by breaking up large contracts. The rebalancing strategy was started a few years ago, but is beginning to yield savings as the Air Force is squeezed for funding owing to budgets cuts mandated by the sequestration process.
By breaking up a sweeping C-17 maintenance contract once under Boeing's management, Air Force officials say they are expected to save $12.4 billion over the fleet's life without sacrificing performance. Boeing remains the prime integrator for the strategic transport, but the Air Force has stepped in for much of the “white collar,” or administrative management.
The Air Force also plans to compete sustainment of the Pratt & Whitney F117 propulsion systems in an attempt to cut cost, according to officials in the Mobility Directorate of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
The C-17 was the first of the Air Force's major weapon systems to undergo what it called a sustainment business case analysis, which produced the strategy now in play.