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Pentagon seeks to address supplier shortage.

The lack of spare parts for aging equipment and the absence of suppliers for many specialized military items increasingly are issues of concern at the Defense Department.

The official name used to describe these problems is Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Materiel Shortages (DMSMS).

The undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness oversees a DMSMS working group that comprises various government agencies and industry representatives.

Defense Department Regulation 4140.1-R (Supply Chain Material Management) defines DMSMS as "the loss, or impending loss, of manufacturers of items or suppliers of items or raw materials. The military loses a manufacturer when the manufacturer discontinues or plans to discontinue production of needed components or raw materials."

Indicative of the importance that DMSMS issues are gaining at the Pentagon is the large attendance at the 2003 DMSMS conference, held in San Diego in August. Almost 700 people were in attendance, a record for that event.

The Air Force Materiel Command's Air Force Research Laboratory serves as the DMSMS program manager.

According to the Air Force Materiel Command's DMSMS Case Resolution Guide: "In today's high-tech Air Force, the ultimate performance of aircraft, missiles, and numerous other weapon systems depends on a multitude of important and often complex components. When one of these components (e.g. a microcircuit) becomes obsolete or unavailable, the impact can extend throughout the weapon system affecting cost and system readiness."

The services are all trying to "lessen or eliminate the risks caused by parts non-availability before the weapon system is adversely affected," the guide said.

Microelectronics is a major element of the DMSMS program, but not all. Commercial manufacturers increasingly lose interest in supporting the military market, because it is too small and not viewed as profitable. Many companies find that it is not economically feasible to support very small volumes and, in some cases, intermittent orders over long periods of time.

James A. Neely, program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said that "DMSMS impacts every weapon system in the Air Force inventory--past, present and future."

Neely explained that DMSMS is driven by many factors, but one reason is the extended weapon system's life in the Air Force inventory. For example, B-52s may be used more than 94 years, C-130s more than 79 years, C-135s more than 86 years and the F-15 more than 51 years. None of these planes was designed to fly that long. Consequently, readiness rates would be compromised if the DMSMS issues are left unresolved.

The Air Force has developed many tools to address DMSMS. These include the Air Force Shared Data Warehouse Module, command-wide composite DMSMS database, solutions Web site. The service completed Phase I of a DMSMS desktop information module.

Luis E. Garcia-Baco, chief of the industrial base capabilities division of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, said the Army is involved with many different communities to support DMSMS efforts for electronic components and parts, ordnance, ammunition and energetics, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems, and obsolescence of equipment and materials. The Army has taken the lead on a new DMSMS working subgroup on materials.

Garcia-Baco described a recent Army study looking at foreign suppliers and potential problems with foreign partners. Of the foreign sources, 33 percent are from Canada, 34 percent are from Sweden, 15 percent are from the United Kingdom and 18 percent from other nations.

The Army is gauging obsolescence management within the standards set by the American, British, Canadian, Australian (ABCA) armies. A recently approved ABCA Armies' Standardization Program Quadripartite Advisory Agreement focuses on providing a mechanism for DMSMS data exchange between the member countries.

In charge of the Navy efforts is Jane Parker, director of the logistics planning and policy division of the Naval Inventory Control Point, Naval Supply Systems Command. The Navy has four major DMSMS initiatives--Rapid Retargeting, Obsolescence Mitigation Management, DMSMS Metrics Tracking and the Navy Obsolescence Management Working Group.

Parker said that Obsolescence Mitigation Management was an internet accessible Life Cycle Cost model for rapid completion of Navy related cost/benefit analyses in a collaborative environment." The Navy DMSMS Metrics Tool is a web based system linked to the Defense Department metrics collection effort. The Navy Obsolescence Management Working Group is working' to "coordinate" obsolescence management efforts, interact with the Defense Department DMSMS Working Group ... and accomplish proactive DMSMS planning."

Ron Shimazu, chief of the microelectronics division at the Defense Microelectronics Activity, and chair of the Defense Department Working Group, said the group was chartered to be the focal point and coordinate DMSMS activities.

The working group, he said, wants to "increase DMSMS awareness and availability of DMSMS-related information, encourage the development of DMSMS tools, and innovative approaches to mitigate the impact of DMSMS ... and develop recommendations to DMSMS policy and procedures to encourage aggressive and proactive DMSMS management of military weapon systems."
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Author:Ronis, Sheila R.
Publication:National Defense
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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