By Kelly Luster, Corporate Communications, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support
The National Defense Strategy (NDS) states the key to warfighting readiness and the distributed lethality of U.S. naval forces is speed, efficiency and reliance on new weapons and technologies for the asymmetric battlefields at, and from the sea. NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) is the Navy’s only Program Support Inventory Control Point (PSICP) as outlined in NAVSUP WSS instruction 4400.96. In this critical role, NAVSUP WSS optimizes control over the supply chain and its integral program support for the end-to-end lifecycle of naval weapon systems and platforms, thus directly contributing to naval readiness and lethality.
As the Navy’s supply chain manager, NAVSUP WSS is responsible for supplying the fleet with the parts needed to maintain weapon systems, contracting repair or purchasing parts, and managing transportation and distribution of materiel. Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, commander, NAVSUP WSS, overseas a workforce of more than 2,200 military and civilians who process 500,000 annual demands from a $33 billion inventory in support of Navy, Marine Corps, Joint, allied and partner nation forces customers worldwide. As remarkable as those numbers are, this only scratches the surface of the organization’s complex role as PSICP.
“The complexity of our mission requires persistent Navy insight and oversight,” said Heinz. He said nobody understands the unique challenges of operating and supplying in a maritime environment like the NAVSUP WSS experts—and that support starts well before a weapon system is deployed.
NAVSUP WSS has a dual focus: a supply support role to the fleet by delivering deployable capability, and a program support role to provide support for the lifecycle of weapon systems. The supply support function is more visible as a “customer focus” role, planning and executing materiel support on a day-to-day basis. The program support role is less obvious to the fleet customer, because they don’t see the products and services directly – but program support is critical to achieve weapon systems readiness.
NAVSUP WSS’s PSICP role ideally begins in tandem with the research and development (R&D) phase of a weapon system’s lifecycle. Initially, NAVSUP WSS provides focus for logistics and supply chain considerations in a weapon system’s acquisition strategy development. As soon as the system design is mature and stable, the provisioning process begins. During this phase, maintenance plans are developed, data requirements are defined, fleet allowances are established and initial materiel is procured to support the weapon system fielding.
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Navy destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86) leads the Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group at sea. –photo by MC2 James R. Evan
According to Ms. Lynn Kohl, vice commander, NAVSUP WSS, the leading role of NAVSUP WSS as the PSICP during this period is in “designing the support” rather than “supporting the design.” The PSICP function of provisioning supports the future materiel requirements of all supply support inventory control points (SSICPs). NAVSUP WSS participation in this phase is critical as it leads to decreased lifecycle costs for weapon systems.
“NAVSUP WSS is integral in assisting with program manager interfacing, interim support, configuration management, program-driven requirements, repairables management and providing engineering assistance to design the support to optimize a responsive, cost-effective supply chain,” said Kohl.
To illustrate why NAVSUP WSS ensures synergy in the supply chain and effectively functions as the PSICP, Kohl discussed one of many obstacles NAVSUP WSS helps mitigate during the lifecycle of a weapon platform. “Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs), which may be generated anytime throughout the life of the system for countless reasons including safety or technological improvements,” said Kohl, “require experts with in-depth understanding of the PSICP process.” According to Kohl, an ECP may be a mini system introduction requiring processes similar to supporting the overall system. “Multifaceted, complex systems can generate hundreds of ECPs requiring in-depth program knowledge,” she added.
Kohl said, “We are the only Navy organization in a position to coordinate the touch points between the supply chain and myriad Navy organizations that perform other logistics functions such as maintenance, configuration, training, and handling technical data, to name a few. In order for the supply chain to be optimized and effective, all the logistics elements and organizations need to work together.”
Once a weapon system’s sustainment period begins, the supply support inventory control point becomes a partner in weapons support. Whether these functions are performed by another provider or NAVSUP WSS, they are carefully monitored and controlled by the NAVSUP WSS Integrated Weapons Support Team (IWST) for the remainder of the weapon’s lifecycle. NAVSUP WSS, however, retains SSICP management of the more expensive, complex, critical items while the remaining piece parts are turned over for management to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). By focusing on a weapon system management orientation, the PSICP is able to maximize readiness for the weapon system while minimizing support costs.
While NAVSUP WSS’s role in supply support is most visible on a daily basis as “customer focus,” its “program support” function is critical to weapon systems and readiness, especially as supplying the Navy becomes more complex. The importance of program support cannot be understated. As with all program decisions, making early, calculated decisions affecting supply will have enormous impacts on operation and sustainment costs–the most significant portion of a weapon system’s total ownership cost (TOC).
NAVSUP WSS has always responded with urgency to ensure U.S. naval forces are ready wherever and whenever they are needed, according to Heinz. However, with former Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Jim Mattis ordering Department of Defense (DoD)-wide reform and the Navy seeing readiness challenges, that sense of urgency has become more critical, especially in today’s multifaceted security environment.
In early 2018, NAVSUP launched its reform initiative, of which NAVSUP WSS has the lead in two of five critical areas, or pillars; Forecasting and Strategic Supplier Management. NAVSUP WSS has a heavy hand in a third pillar as well–Responsive Contracting.
In anticipation of sweeping reforms across the DoD, NAVSUP WSS was already leaning forward by launching its Blueprint for Supply Chain Excellence—a five-year plan of strategic priorities and enabling actions with the intent on reinvigorating program and supply support for the weapon systems and platforms to keep naval forces mission ready.
“With our fleet facing readiness challenges and the supply chain becoming more complex, the Secretary of Defense has made reform a DoD-wide priority,” said Heinz. “There is a sense of urgency here and a call to action to ensure our naval forces are ready wherever and whenever our nation calls upon them. We have the opportunity to make a difference in today’s multifaceted national security environment,” Heinz added.
For the PSICP functions to run effectively, the resource sponsors, hardware systems commands, and type commanders–as well as productive alliances with myriad manufacturers, engineering and industrial activities–must be fully integrated and work with other supply chain functions.
There’s little doubt the role of NAVSUP WSS as the Navy’s PSICP is vital in linking weapon system acquisition, engineering, maintenance and operational communities. Additionally, with stronger focus on lethality, readiness and auditability, NAVSUP WSS serves as the cornerstone of this connection.
Always moving forward with an eye on the horizon and cultivating unique capabilities and a deep understanding of historical analysis, NAVSUP WSS will continue to leverage its role as the Navy’s only PSICP, which is critical for end-to-end support of weapon systems and platform program decisions.