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Modernizing ICBM sustainment

A Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile at a Montana missile site. The section was picked at random for a "glory trip," or a test launch, at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in August 2014. The launch allows Malmstrom and Vandenberg AFB officials to observe a launch to gather data on the weapon system's performance, accuracy and reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman John Parie)

A Malmstrom Air Force Base missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile at a Montana missile site. The section was picked at random for a "glory trip," or a test launch, at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in August 2014. The launch allows Malmstrom and Vandenberg AFB officials to observe a launch to gather data on the weapon system's performance, accuracy and reliability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman John Parie)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- In an ongoing effort to better manage the sustainment of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Air Force Global Strike Command has implemented an ICBM Parts Centralized Funding program designed to help alleviate budgetary pressure on missile wing leadership.

Leaders in the ICBM community have applauded this effort as one of the most important improvements to ICBM sustainment activities since ICBMs went on alert in 1960.

The centralized funding program is AFGSC's first attempt to bring funding used for purchasing missile system parts, which previously resided at the wing, up to the major command level. As of Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2015 fiscal year, AFGSC is responsible for day-to-day funding of the weapon system's parts costs.

"What happened before was that wings had to choose between whether or not to buy a missile part or buy something to support their people," Daryle Fry, an AFGSC ICBM program analyst said. "That is a choice a wing commander shouldn't have to make."

Any item that an ICBM technical order covers is considered part of the weapon system and will be centrally funded. Basically, anything used in direct support of the weapons system is covered, Fry said.

"As of Oct. 1, a technician can go into supply and ask to order a part without being concerned about funding," Fry explained. "The wing orders the parts it needs, and the bill gets sent to AFGSC. Wing commanders can focus more on their people and support structure and 20th Air Force won't have to worry about advocating to command to find funding for parts."

The shift in funding responsibility not only decreases the sustainment burden that once resided at the wing level, but will allow AFGSC to determine the weapon system's true requirements.

"Before, I couldn't tell you what the true requirement was, because in the old days the requirements were based off of funding availability and parts orders were deferred sometimes to pay for other priorities," Fry said. "Now unit funding availability is not really a factor anymore. Requirements will be driven by a true weapon system need."

Fry expects the centralized funding to remain at AFGSC for about a year while the command determines the requirements. After, funding will be elevated up to Headquarters Air Force and ICBMs will be funded like the service's other weapon systems.

"The entire Air Force is aging, but while the rest of the Air Force moved on with sustainment, ICBMs did not, but we're changing that now," said Lawrence Kingsley, the logistics, installations and mission support director at AFGSC. "My priority is to modernize how the ICBMs are maintained and sustained. This centralized funding program is part of that effort, and will allow AFGSC to become proactive, as opposed to reactive, in our approach to managing the ICBM force."

This program will not only help AFGSC determine the true requirements, but Fry said he anticipates that it will fix a lot of second and third order effects that cause improper weapons sustainment.

"It fixes supply issues that aren't addressed until the last minute," he continued. "It allows us to do programming and budgeting because we'll have accurate information on what our true requirement is. We'll have forward thinking plans and better life cycle management."

In the long run, the program will start to reverse the effects of failing equipment, which will in turn reduce man hours, increase weapon system reliability and improve the overall performance of the weapon.

The effort began in 2009 when AFGSC became the Air Force's newest MAJCOM and merged the ICBM and bomber communities. Combining the two legs of the nuclear triad allowed for cross-flow of information and ways of doing business.

"I believe we've moved off the island and moved onto a continent," Fry said. "That has broadened our perspectives and horizons to see that there are other ways of doing things more efficiently. There are better ways to do things and make Airmen's lives easier in the field."

Better ways of doing things locally have impacts globally.

"ICBMs are on alert underground 24/7, 365, and have been for more than 50 years," Kingsley said. "ICBMs are the cheapest insurance policy this nation has and the ultimate defense against strategic attack. For that reason, it is imperative that we work to maintain and sustain these weapons in the most effective and efficient way possible."

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