By Vice Adm. David H. Buss
Commander, Naval Air Forces
Ten years ago in July 2004, Naval Aviation leaders came together to establish the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE), an enduring partnership based on working together toward the common good of our aviation forces by promoting communication and cross-competency cooperation, so that we “deliver the right Naval Aviation force, with the right readiness, at the right cost, at the right time—today and in the future.”
As someone who participated in those early Enterprise efforts back then, and as one of the co-leads of the NAE today, I have proudly witnessed firsthand our Enterprise’s maturation in warfighting readiness at an affordable cost.
The beginnings of Naval Aviation’s “enterprise” concept trace back to the late 1990s, with the start of several initiatives such as the Naval Aviation Pilot Production Improvement Program, the Aviation Maintenance and Supply Readiness Working Groups and the Naval Aviation Readiness Integrated Improvement Program. Facing then a wide range of readiness issues and a need to control the rising costs of operating while sustaining aging aircraft and equipment, Naval Aviation leaders understood “business as usual” would not create a more effective or efficient force.
Based on their experiences implementing readiness improvement programs, Naval Aviation leaders realized the value in creating an enterprise construct based on collaboration among commanders, operators, providers, and resource sponsors. This new enterprise approach provided a holistic view of processes and enabled broader information-sharing and teamwork to address the root causes of fundamental readiness issues we were experiencing at the time.
In July 2004, this enterprise approach officially became the Naval Aviation Enterprise. Initially consisting of only Navy aviation assets and processes, in 2007 the partnership expanded to include Marine Corps aviation.
Over the years the NAE has provided exactly the right collaborative framework for Naval Aviation leaders, in both the Navy and Marine Corps, to work together to address some of our community’s toughest problems.
Fast-forward ten years to today, and the current environment—with limited resources and a high demand for Naval Aviation capabilities—is a prime example of why this Enterprise approach is so important. Delivering warfighting readiness across our Navy and Marine Corps aviation communities, regardless of the fiscal environment, is what our nation demands of us.
To maintain top combat effectiveness, Naval Aviation leaders today work together to smartly manage our precious resources, attack readiness degraders, and collaborate across organizational boundaries to deliver ready forces where and when they are needed.
My fellow NAE co-leads: Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation, and Vice Adm. David Dunaway, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and I are focusing today’s efforts on targeting the most impactful readiness degraders while diligently building the “connective tissue” across the entirety of Naval Aviation in order to make us even more effective for the future.
Take our current efforts to improve the availability of our aircraft inventory, for example. This month, the Naval Aviation community took a holistic, Enterprise view across the aviation readiness accounts and successfully transferred nearly $15 million of flying hour program dollars to address significant shortfalls within aircraft depot maintenance efforts. This was done in coordination with the Force Management and Budget Office, two Budget Submitting Offices, both Type Commanders (AIRLANT and AIRPAC), NAVAIR and our resource sponsors. It represents Naval Aviation using money within our own community ‘lifelines’ to address our issues…without asking for another dollar of resources. As a result of this effort, more maintenance capacity is being brought on line to expeditiously handle requests for engineering information, planner and estimator requests, and in-service repairs, which will put more aircraft on the flight line. More aircraft on our flight lines, when and where they are needed most, will improve the ability of our aircrew to train and, therefore, improve our overall warfighting readiness posture. This type of enterprise collaboration is what will help us sustain the long-term health of Naval Aviation.
In addition to tackling issues that impact readiness today, the NAE is also focused on making the right investments for our future as well. For example, each year the NAE Future Readiness Cross-Functional Team gathers ideas and initiatives with the potential to positively impact sustainment and reliability of our platforms while reducing total ownership costs. Naval Aviation leaders then evaluate the top submissions and champion the initiatives that will deliver the greatest value back to Naval Aviation. Since 2009, as a result of this process, approximately $319 million has been invested in readiness initiatives ranging from improved maintenance test capabilities to aircraft display panel upgrades. The estimated return on investment for the funded initiatives is 9.6-to-1, or a total of $3.4 billion.
As we commemorate the tenth year of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, I urge every member of the Naval Aviation community to renew their commitment to enterprise work and contribute to our efforts to improve cost-wise readiness. Here are some simple ideas to keep in mind:
- Is there a process that could be done more efficiently in my workplace? Suggest a plan to improve it and put it in action.
- Is there a better, more cost-effective way of achieving required training? Implement it and report your findings so that others can replicate what works.
- Do I have an idea for an investment that could reduce Naval Aviation costs in the future? Share the idea with leadership.
- Many efforts like these may seem small, but Naval Aviation is a team sport—and collectively our efforts can help us get the most bang for the buck.
Naval Aviation will increasingly be in demand. Available resources will decrease in the coming years. Our NAE founding fathers foresaw this environment 10 years ago and put us on a path to sustained warfighting readiness and success across our aviation communities. Our job is to stay true to that path while doing everything we can, collectively and individually, to smartly balance what we are given (resources) with what we produce (readiness) to ensure we have a Naval Aviation force that is combat capable…today and in the future.
Fly, Fight, Win! Air Boss sends.