DoD studying ways to make products affordable, sustainable

Monday - 1/3/2011, 7:47pm EST

Paul Yaroschak, deputy director for chemical and material risk management directorate, DoD

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Defense Secretary Robert Gates clearly instructed the military to design new submarines, ships, planes and millions of other items with affordability in the present and for the future on the top of the mind.

While this concept is not new in the commercial sector, DoD has been slow to adopt it over the years. But with tightening budgets and mandates from Gates and Capitol Hill to be more cost conscious, the Pentagon is exploring how to make the entire lifecycle of a product more sustainable.

"The real vision for this is to make sure all the people in the acquisition business, the developers, the prime contractors, the project managers and others do an analysis up front and make very informed decisions on chemicals and material choices, and the energy sources they are going to use," said Paul Yaroschak, DoD's deputy director for chemical and material risk management directorate. "The bottom line is that will lead to a much more sustainable system and we think a lower cost of ownership over the lifecycle of the product."

He said too often contracting or program folks are too focused on the initial cost of an item and do not look as much as they should at the total lifecycle cost or total cost of ownership all the way through sustainment or disposal.

"Many of our systems, like an aircraft system, may last 30 years, and you are going to have to sustain it, overhaul it a number of times so the choices of materials you use can greatly affect that cost," Yaroschak said. "The bottom line is you need to be doing some trade-off analyses early on. We are trying to move that trade-off analysis back earlier in the system because you can't do those things after it's designed. It's too late frankly. You have to do those things when you thinking conceptually about the kinds of systems you will have and very early in the design process."

DoD developed an informal working group to figure out the best approach to implementing total lifecycle management into its procurement process at the beginning.

Yaroschak said the group spent a good part of 2010 reviewing existing methodologies -- 61 in all.

"We are trying to learn and take the good practices that are already out there and learn from them," he said. "The second thing we did is a worldwide benchmarking study on all of the systems in use for measuring sustainability and for the methodologies used for lifecycle assessment. We've finished that so the next stage is to figure out how do we adapt that to our acquisition process?"

One consideration, he said, are the places within the acquisition process to do such a review, such as during the analysis of alternatives phase.

"What we tried to do is overlay the different methodologies on our goal with the DoD acquisition process and filter out the ones that we didn't think would apply or be very helpful," Yaroschak said. "We are ending up with a small group we want to take a closer look at."

One of those approaches is the ISO 14040 series.

He said DoD still is in the beginning stages of this process, so it's premature to say if ISO 14040 or any other approach is the one DoD eventually will use.

"My guess is this will probably be a two-year period to finally get to an end product, and the end product I would hope would be a military standard for how to do lifecycle assessment in acquisition," he said.

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