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With most major weapon system acquisition programs, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) traditionally has the responsibility for acquiring the vast array of support equipment (SE) required throughout the weapon system lifecycle – from tow bars to portable power supplies to automated test equipment. This arrangement is effective during the early phases of development and testing because it reduces the risk of SE compatibility and supportability problems.
However, once the design of the weapon system stabilizes, and those risks decrease, continuing to use the OEM for SE acquisition often leads to unnecessary costs and delays, as well as other problems for the program office. There are several reasons for this. First, OEMs usually don’t make the support equipment themselves – they subcontract out the SE acquisition, often through a multi-layer supply chain. Each subcontractor layer adds its own overhead, general and administrative (G&A) and profit costs, as well as schedule pad and communication approach. An additional issue is that OEMs and lower-tier SE acquisition subcontractors often have a bias toward certain hardware or software solutions. Yet those solutions may not provide SE program offices with the most optimal results.
“Once the design of the weapon system stabilizes, and those risks decrease, continuing to use the OEM for SE acquisition often leads to unnecessary costs and delays.”