TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II spoke at a recent event about the Air Force Sustainment Center and America’s Engine of Readiness.
The May 23 public forum at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, an independent, non-partisan policy research institute, included a presentation from Levy, a question and answer session and a small session discussion.
Levy’s talk focused on the frailties, successes and challenges he has observed from the logistics and sustainment arena.
Levy said logistics and sustainment are often talked about as things to pursue to drive costs down, but there is more to it than that.
“That’s not necessarily incorrect, but it’s also not necessarily complete. You’ve heard the phrase before ‘Logistics won’t necessarily win you a war, but it will certainly cause you to lose one,’” Levy said.
He said logistics and sustainment should be considered more than an expense item.
“It sets the theater today. It helps us project power into a theater, it helps us open a theater, it enables us to sustain forces while fighting a theater and it helps us reset the force for whatever the next obligation that the nation may ask us to fulfil is,” the general said.
Levy said logistics is “an essential piece of the kill chain” that runs from the factory where things are made and fixed to the flight line, whether that is at a main base or with a joint partner.
Additionally, it is bi-directional, requiring things to be sent back for repair when broken.
This bi-directional consideration is important to factor in when considering vulnerabilities, how we resource ourselves and risk.
“If it’s not planned, well thought out and well resourced, logistics becomes a mission risk, not a combat effect,” he said.
Levy also touched on the importance of migrating toward better agility in software usage, saying software is an essential tool the Air Force as a whole should have velocity with.
The AFSC alone, he said, employs about 4,000 software engineers and hires about 800 more a year, with competition for talent being fierce.
“I think that our transformation from an industrial age to an information age Air Force is in its early stages, and software is an essential capability to do that,” Levy said.
He compared the software used in aircraft, ships and elsewhere to a coffee shop, saying customers do not go there for the cup, but for the coffee.
The value, he said, lies in the “ones and zeros” and the engine, wings and other parts are the “coffee cup” which transport fifth generation capabilities to the battle space.
“For a number of years now, I’ve opined that many of our weapon systems are simply software packages that come with a really nice winged wrapper,” Levy said.
Lastly, the commander touched on the “health of the industrial base,” saying the defense industrial base and supply chain are pretty brittle.
“As we think about the industrial base in America and what it takes to generate and sustain combat power over time, the things that have gotten us here in the past probably won’t carry us forward into the future,” Levy said.
To watch the full presentation visit the Mitchell Institute’s YouTube channel.