DLA Energy integral to Air Force MAFCAT fuel tankering program

By Elizabeth Stoeckmann DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Energy is an integral player in providing fuel data to Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center fuel tankering program that provides more efficient and effective warfighter support.

The fuel tankering concept known as Mobility Air Forces Cost Avoidance Tankering (MAFCAT) required collaboration between the U.S. Transportation Command and DLA Energy. Fuel tankering is a cost avoidance initiative that recommends aircraft take on additional fuel at locations where the fuel price is lower than the destination.

“We have been working with DLA Energy for more than five years,” said USTRANSCOM Joint Distribution Process Analysis Center (JDPAC) Mobility Analyst Walter Hunt. “Since the origin of MAFCAT 1.0 in July 2012, it has been a very rewarding relationship.”

MAFCAT’s original focus was on fuel pricing at 28 AMC locations in U.S. Central Command, allowing the Department of Defense to avoid significant costs by taking advantage of aviation fuel cost differentials between these airfields in CENTCOM. This effort resulted in almost $400 million in cost avoidance across DOD.

Tankering recommendations were derived from a DLA Energy spreadsheet provided to USTRANSCOM monthly. The spreadsheet was then published as a matrix. Wherever the cross-referenced block was green, tankering was recommended. The green block indicates that the math to fly an aircraft from origin to destination achieves a cost avoidance because the price of fuel at that origin is lower than the destination’s cost and sufficient to offset the increased fuel burn rate.

The impetus behind MAFCAT 1.0 was realizing that DLA Energy’s stabilized fuel pricing policy did not reveal the true cost to DOD to provide fuel to the warfighter because the cost to buy gas in Afghanistan was not significantly different than buying it in Kuwait or Qatar. What was different, however, was the cost for DLA Energy to deliver fuel to locations in Afghanistan is significantly higher.

Providing gas in Kuwait or Qatar is much cheaper and safer than providing fuel in places like Afghanistan. The logistical threat and cost to move fuel trucks through dangerous regions is high.

As military operations gained intensified, flight managers considered MAFCAT as a means to facilitate cost avoidance because they purchase less expensive gas whenever possible.

A subsequent drawdown of armed forces in 2015 produced a significant downward trend of this cost avoidance benefit. Both AMC and USTRANSCOM realized that MAFCAT could have a much broader application and allow the fuel efficiency program to continue to harvest definitive savings for future missions.  

In 2016, JDPAC analysts looked to expand the tankering concept globally.

Meetings with interested parties led to a decision to execute a three-month Proof of Principle to allow stakeholders to refine their process and determine if tankering was sustainable. The number of locations considered for flight planning purposes expanded from 28 to 196.

“One of the biggest limiting factors was how to preclude making the matrix so large as to no longer be a useful tool for the flight managers at the 618th,” Hunt said.

The 618th was confident they could move beyond a manually driven system using spreadsheets and incorporated the “cost to deliver,” provided by DLA Energy, into their flight planning suite of tools.

This was a significant reduction in the workload for the flight managers and a huge step forward, Hunt said. MAFCAT now looks at more than 1,600 locations monthly and provides tankering recommendations.

DLA Energy also realized there was room to improve the process for MAFCAT 2.0.

“It all started with my deputy director asking me how hard it would be to create a report in DLA Energy’s Enterprise Business System,” said DLA Energy Customer Account Specialist Mike Park.

A process was developed to reduce the manual work and automate it for MAFCAT 2.0.

Park analyzes fuel cost to deliver data from an Enterprise Business System, and several other sources, in order to provide a three-month, rolling average to USTRANSCOM action officers for their review and adjudication before 618th information technology specialists load it in to their flight planning suite.

Within a year, efforts between USTRANSCOM, AMC, 618th AOC and DLA Energy turned a manually driven, labor intensive and regionally focused MAFCAT 1.0 into MAFCAT 2.0, a global, automated effort designed to save the taxpayer money and provide increased effectiveness and efficiency to the warfighter with tangible cost avoidance, Hunt explained.

“Mike is one of the initial MAFCAT 2.0 development team planners and is a critical partner in the MAFCAT execution,” said DLA Energy USTRANSCOM Liaison Officer Frank Wright. “He is the face of DLA Energy to USTRANSCOM, AMC and the MAFCAT community and should be recognized for his dedicated support.”

Park collaborated with DLA Energy Direct Supply Operations, specifically Bulk Petroleum Supply Chain Services, to figure out support from the Defense Fuel Support Points locations AMC utilizes. Use of the Aviation Into-plane Reimbursement (AIR) Card® Online System generates a report that accesses as many data points as possible. A program that started with specific areas is now global.

“I originally started with running EBS reports, but as time evolved, we have evolved our data sources,” Park said. “With the use of the AIR Card® program and DFSPs, I can pull data from our contractors. All the data gets generated into an access database that generates a report I email to USTRANSCOM planners. From there, AMC runs it through their algorithms and business rules to help make decisions.”

The report focuses on what DLA Energy is paying for fuel and DOD’s attempt to save money.

“We take a holistic view of the Department of Defense,” Hunt said. “We look at DLA Energy’s cost to deliver in relation to AMC’s worldwide missions in order to realize significant cost avoidance, which makes a huge difference to DLA Energy.”

“The team is always looking for more efficient and effective ways to conduct the mission,” said 618th AOC Vice Commander Air Force Col. Brian McDaniel.

With the implementation of MAFCAT 2.0, the USTRANSCOM/DLA/AOC initiative automated the process allowing flight managers to consider more than 1,600 locations worldwide, and cost to deliver differentials based on DLA Energy data.

“I’m extremely proud of our team, they were able to take a concept developed by USTRANSCOM and DLA Energy through the final stages and into implementation,” McDaniel said.

AOC’s data and applications team programed DLA Energy fuel data into the Interactive Mission Record used by flight managers to command and control AMC missions worldwide. The process is fully automated, notifying flight managers when aircrews should or shouldn’t tanker fuel.

“A completely embedded program,” Hunt said.

Collaboration is an essential element in the success of the MAFCAT program.

“JDPAC action officers are the connective tissue,” Hunt said. “However, all the hard work is done by Mike Park to feed us the data.”

Park said his knowledge in finance, standard pricing, payment data and his background in the AIR Card® program helped in creating the DLA Energy MAFCAT report.

“The MAFCAT was presented to me as a challenge and I went for it,” he said. “It’s a program that gives DLA the best value and arguably one more tool for our customers for better-buying decisions.”

Cost avoidance for the MAFCAT program is at more than $400 million, or $80 million per year since it started.

“Compare that to an average fuel bill, and that’s pretty significant,” Hunt said.

Current expected cost avoidance expectations are on the order of $10 million a quarter, which has come down quite a bit since there are fewer flying missions into higher fuel priced areas like Afghanistan, he said.

Research into these programs benefits the entire DOD in dollars and lives, Hunt said. Using a metric provided by the Center for Army Analysis, more than 25 lives have been saved because the number of fuel convoys making the dangerous trek through hostile environments in and around Afghanistan has reduced.

Additionally, DLA Energy benefits from selling more gas, Hunt said. A negative net operating result in Afghanistan would typically offset a positive result in Kuwait and Qatar, even though extra fuel was burned when aircraft carried additional fuel onboard. That may seem counterintuitive, burn more gas in order to increase cost avoidance, however it’s going to save the DOD money because of the price differential between the two locations and reduces the number of fuel convoys needed to supply locations in Afghanistan, Hunt explained.

Mission planners said they live by two MAFCAT words: appropriate and applicable. Appropriate means tankering will not interfere with the mission; applicable means the math works, and the numbers justify taking on additional fuel.

“We never want to bump cargo, take on more gas than necessary, decrement the pay load or delay a mission,” Hunt said.

MAFCAT 2.0 was USTRANSCOM’s Commander’s Innovation Showcase award winner for 2017’s first quarter.

“This collaborative team worked across commands and agencies to expand the current MAFCAT concept and empower Mobility Air Forces planners and operators to make cost-informed decisions, resulting in a DOD cost avoidance of $10.8 million and saving an estimated 25 lives,” said USTRANSCOM Chief of Staff Air Force Maj. Gen. John Flournoy.