USAF Logistics Chief Raises Urgent Warning On Surge Capacity

Lt. Gen. Warren Berry
Credit: USAF

ORLANDO, Florida—A recent internal study shows more than nine out of 10 repairs performed by the defense industry on U.S. Air Force aircraft are by a sole-source vendor, the service’s top logistics official said on April 28.

The Air Force’s reliance on single sources for nearly all aircraft repairs outside of military-operated depots raises stark concerns about the defense industry’s ability to support the needs of combat forces in a time of war, said Lt. Gen. Warren Berry, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection.

The internal review showed 80% of all demand for aircraft parts is satisfied by a repair instead of a replacement, said Berry, speaking to the Military Aviation Logistics and Maintenance Symposium. Of those parts repairs, 92% can only be performed by a single supplier.

“That scares the crap out of me,” Berry said.

“Because what that means is those sole-source and single-source vendors have largely structured their business model around the peacetime operating demand signal I’m getting, which is going to pale in comparison to the pace and volume of operations that I’m going to be asked to demonstrate during a fight with a peer or a near-peer adversary,” Berry explained.

The Air Force has incentivized companies to operate as efficiently as possible, he said. That saves money in peacetime, but reduces surge capacity to meet demand in times of war.

“I don’t think that you all have tooling, equipment, supplies, the commodities, the [shop-replaceable units], whatever it is in the business that you’re in, I don’t think you’ve got it,” Berry said. “But the reality is we’re not  going to have time to wait.”

The review should trigger a new round of discussions between the Air Force and industry about how to expand commercial capacity for military aircraft parts.

“How do we incentivize you to be able to have a surge capability and surge capacity?” Berry asked. “So when we need it, at least I have a higher level of confidence that it will be there, because right now, today, I don’t.”

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


ok which vendor?
Surely the General is not suggesting either that firms should (out of its own resources) provide a capability to meet any additional quantum of demand? Or, that the US Government, the DOD, or the Air Force; could sustain (fund) such a contractor capability, out of Air Forces’ (or any of the other Services’) “base-load” increase in their O&M appropriations, from the US Treasury?

The Posture of the DOD fiscal establishment, is precisely configured to ignore what the General is suggesting. Because it is profoundly unaffordable, and has been for over 30 years.

It has been more than 30 years since “war reserve” materiel was purchased; stockpiled; and sustained. When logistics depots, centers, and production lines, were given sustainment appropriations, so as to remain always “warm”, in their states of readiness. Capable of expanding to wartime levels of output in all phases of the combatant sustainment posture.

To suggest that that posture is something that is economically feasible today on any timescale is sheer fantasy.