Weapon Systems Management:

DOD Has Taken Steps to Implement Product Support Managers but Needs to Evaluate Their Effects

GAO-14-326: Published: Apr 29, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2014.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services have taken steps to implement Product Support Managers (PSM) for major weapon systems, but certain aspects of the implementation process remain incomplete. The services have assigned PSMs to almost all of their major weapon systems. For example, as of February 2014, 325 of 332 PSM position requirements across DOD for major weapon systems—approximately 98 percent—were filled. While DOD and all of the services have taken some steps to develop a comprehensive career path and associated guidance to develop, train, and support future PSMs, DOD, in coordination with the military services, has not developed a plan—to include objectives, milestones, and resources—to implement and institutionalize a comprehensive PSM career path. Until DOD develops such a plan, it may not be able to ensure that the services can fill PSM positions with qualified personnel in the future. Moreover, DOD's PSM implementation guidance is not centralized and future product support personnel may be hindered in their ability to easily access and implement such guidance. Also, because the latest DOD guidance lacks detail and contains a potentially unclear provision, personnel may confuse the responsibilities of Program Managers and PSMs. Without clear, comprehensive, and centralized implementation guidance, DOD may be hindered in its ability to institutionalize the implementation of PSMs for its major weapon systems going forward. Additionally, the Army has been working for a year to clarify the roles and responsibilities of certain product support personnel, who support PSMs, for the sustainment portion of the life cycle for major weapon systems. According to officials from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, major weapon systems program offices have raised the issue of the lack of clear roles and responsibilities of these personnel, which has prompted senior-level Army meetings to attempt to resolve the issue. However, the Army has not yet finalized guidance that clarifies roles and responsibilities, which may hinder PSMs in their ability to effectively manage and conduct their daily product support responsibilities.

DOD does not fully know how or to what extent PSMs are affecting life-cycle sustainment decisions because it has not systematically collected and evaluated information on the effects PSMs are having on their assigned weapon systems. Program evaluation guidance states that evaluations can play a key role in program planning, management, and oversight by providing feedback to managers on programs. Evaluations can show whether PSMs are conducting good practices that could be shared across the department as well as whether changes are needed to guidance or other areas to enhance the contributions of PSMs. In the absence of DOD information on the effects PSMs are having on life-cycle sustainment decisions, weapon system program offices identified several good practices and challenges associated with PSMs. For example, several PSMs told us that they had initiated analyses focused on reducing life-cycle sustainment costs for their assigned weapon systems. One challenge that Army headquarters officials noted was that PSMs do not have knowledge of how much sustainment funding their systems will receive prior to the year of execution of funds. Without greater visibility over the allocation of sustainment funding for their assigned weapon systems, these PSMs may be hindered in their ability to proactively manage and influence their system's life-cycle sustainment decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD spends billions of dollars annually to sustain weapon systems. With the prospect of tighter defense budgets, DOD has placed more attention on controlling total life-cycle costs with initiatives aimed at ensuring that weapon systems are more affordable over the long term. Section 2337 of Title 10, U.S. Code, requires that each major weapon system be supported by a PSM and lays out the responsibilities of the PSM, including developing and implementing a comprehensive product support strategy for the system. GAO was asked to review DOD's progress in implementing PSMs for major weapon systems.

This report examines (1) the steps, if any, that DOD and the military services have taken to implement PSMs for major weapon systems and (2) the extent to which DOD has evaluated the effects, if any, that PSMs are having on life-cycle sustainment decisions for their assigned systems. To conduct this review, GAO obtained information and interviewed product support personnel assigned to 12 of 332 major weapon systems that reflected varying characteristics—such as military service and system costs—and analyzed documentation from DOD and the military services.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD and the services develop a plan to institutionalize a career path for PSMs; issue clear, comprehensive, and centralized PSM implementation guidance; evaluate the effects PSMs have on sustainment decisions; and improve Army PSMs' visibility over sustainment funding. DOD generally agreed with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On September 10, 2015, DOD officials provided a copy of their "PSM Career Development Roadmap," which establishes the PSM career path framework that was signed by the Life Cycle Logisticians Functional Leader and was sent to the services. The information this Roadmap contains will be added to the OSD PSM Guidebook that is being revised, and DOD is on track to release the updated OSD PSM Guidebook in October 2015. As a result of DOD's ongoing actions to fully implement this recommendation, the recommendation remains open as of September 17, 2015. //// The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness issued a memorandum on May 26, 2015, that introduced a PSM career path framework and PSM position category description to assist with training and assignment of life cycle logisticians. Among other things, the PSM career path framework and position category description included objectives, milestones, and resources to develop, train, and support future PSMs, and this information reflected Defense Acquisition University guidance on product support efforts. In addition, this memorandum was coordinated with the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and its contents were included in an appendix to the "Product Support Manager Guidebook" in November 2015 and, more recently, in a re-issued version of this guidebook dated April 2016. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness noted that the most recent version of the guidebook included information on the PSM career path to lay the foundation for a more effective and professional life-cycle logistics workforce. As a result of DOD's actions to implement and institutionalize a PSM career path within its guidebook, the department is better positioned to ensure that it can develop, train, and support PSMs and fill these positions with properly qualified personnel in the future. Based on these actions, this recommendation has been closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: To ensure the development of a sufficient cadre of qualified, trained personnel to meet future requirements for PSM, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD[AT&L])--in coordination with the Defense Acquisition University and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force--to develop and implement a plan with objectives, milestones, and resources to implement and institutionalize a comprehensive career path and associated guidance to develop, train, and support future PSMs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and has issued or updated various guidance documents regarding PSMs. For example, in November 2014, DOD issued a PSM position category description that included the PSM statutory responsibilities from section 2337 of title 10 of the U.S. Code. An update to DOD Instruction 5000.02 in January 2015 addressed program manager and PSM responsibilities with regard to the development and implementation of a product support strategy for a major weapon system. In February 2017, DOD updated a chapter of its Defense Acquisition Guidebook to provide additional guidance to PSMs for developing, documenting, and executing sustainment strategies. However, because the guidance is dispersed among several documents, it does not constitute centralized guidance on PSM roles and responsibilities. As a result, this recommendation remains open as of September 11, 2017.

    Recommendation: To better enable the military services to implement and institutionalize the roles and responsibilities of the PSM, the Secretary of Defense should direct the (USD[AT&L])--in coordination with the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force--to issue clear, comprehensive, centralized guidance regarding the roles and responsibilities of PSMs and the officials that assign them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD partially concurred and revised Army Regulation 700-127 "Integrated Product Support" and the companion Army Pamphlet 700-127, "Integrated Product Support Procedures" in October 2014, and the Army Pamphlet was most recently revised in September 2016. The regulation and the accompanying pamphlet clarify the Army-wide roles and responsibilities for the sustainment portion of the life cycle of major weapon systems, including the reporting relationships of Army Materiel Command support personnel assigned to Army weapon system program offices. For example, this guidance states that Army Materiel Command support staff will report and be accountable to PSMs. It also states that PSMs may designate these support staff to perform daily management of performance-based arrangements, for which they will provide a periodic status report to the PSM on the execution of and compliance with product support arrangement requirements. Moreover, according to officials, the Army is conducting a pilot study of weapon systems that transition from the acquisition to the sustainment phase, and this study may lead to revised policies and procedures, including those related to the reporting relationships of Army Materiel Command support personnel assigned to Army weapon system program offices. The study is estimated to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2018.

    Recommendation: To better enable Army PSMs to fulfill their product support responsibilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army--in coordination with the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA[ALT]) and the Commander of Army Materiel Command (AMC)--to clearly define Army-wide roles and responsibilities for the sustainment portion of the life cycle of major weapon systems, to include the reporting relationships of AMC support personnel assigned to Army weapon system program offices, by issuing new, or revising existing, Army guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and in April 2014 stated that it would develop a methodology and plan to address this recommendation. However, in July 2017, DOD officials said that, in considering how to implement this recommendation, they had concluded that it was not feasible to systematically collect and evaluate information on the effects PSMs are having on life-cycle sustainment decisions. They cited the role of PSMs as advisors to the program managers, who have decision-making authority. In addition, they stated that it would be an administrative burden to collect information from PSMs. Further, DOD officials have stated that existing oversight of weapon system acquisitions--including approval of Life-Cycle Sustainment Plans, assessments of weapon system programs' status in achieving sustainment Key Performance Parameters/Key System Attributes, and reviews of operating and support costs--provides confidence that product support is being properly planned and managed. Officials also stated that the department's analysis of a limited number of nominations submitted for DOD's annual PSM Award serves as a qualitative barometer of the effectiveness of PSM involvement in individual programs. However, there is value in systematically collecting and evaluating this type of information, because it could provide insight into the contributions PSMs are making to weapon system sustainment planning and execution. While reviewing nominations for DOD's annual PSM Award provides some insight into a limited number of PSMs, it does not constitute a systematic evaluation. As a result, this recommendation remains open as of September 11, 2017.

    Recommendation: To help inform departmental and congressional oversight of the status of the PSM implementation and the influence, if any, that PSMs have in life-cycle sustainment decisions for major weapon systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the (USD[AT&L])--in conjunction with the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force--to systematically collect and evaluate information on the effects, if any, that PSMs are having on life-cycle sustainment decisions for their assigned major weapon systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and in 2015, officials stated that the Army would conduct a pilot initiative to provide greater visibility to PSMs prior to the year of execution of funds for their assigned weapon systems. However, due to competing Army requirements for available resourcing, the Army subsequently discontinued its plan to conduct this pilot initiative. According to officials, the Army developed and in 2017 began using a funding transparency metric during the joint acquisition and sustainment weapon system reviews held by the Army Materiel Command and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. The goal of the funding transparency metric is to improve the alignment of requirements and funding in the future by comparing the requirements--which were previously submitted by the Program Executive Offices for their weapon system program offices--to the sustainment funding provided by the Army Materiel Command. The Army has taken some actions to address this recommendation, but it is too early to evaluate the results of these actions because the funding transparency metric is intended to influence future funding decisions. As a result, this recommendation remains open as of September 11, 2017.

    Recommendation: To better enable Army PSMs to fulfill their daily product support responsibilities, including planning and proactively managing sustainment efforts for their assigned weapon systems, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army--in coordination with the (ASA[ALT]) and the Commander of the AMC--to review the current process for requesting and distributing sustainment funding for major weapon systems and to take necessary actions to ensure that PSMs have greater visibility of the amount of sustainment funds their weapon systems will receive including prior to the year of execution of funds, to the extent possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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