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DLA News Archive

News | Sept. 12, 2023

Industry Collider Day sparks collaboration on supply chain challenges

By Beth Reece

Today’s global security environment highlights the need for logistics solutions that allow the world’s mightiest military to maintain its upper edge in lethality, the Defense Logistics Agency’s director said Sept. 11 at the fourth annual Industry Collider Day at the McNamara Headquarter Complex.

Members of DLA’s research and development team work daily to explore and develop innovative, affordable business practices that enable a modernized force, Navy Vice Adm. Michelle Skubic said.

People sit in chairs clapping in front of a stage in an auditorium
Members of the government, industry and academia listen to a panel discussion on emerging technology at the 4th annual Industry Collider Day at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by Chris Lynch
Photo By: Chris Lynch DLA Photographer
VIRIN: 230911-D-HE260-1003
“And it’s not something we ever do alone,” she said. “We rely on our partners across government, across industry, across academia. That includes the many small business partners that we work with to find solutions across a variety of technical areas.”

The theme of the daylong event was “Forging Tech-Forward Connections to Enable Proactive Global Solutions,” a nod to DLA’s goal to connect industry and academia with specific opportunities in areas such as additive manufacturing, strategic materials, and green and sustainable technologies.

“It’s all about empowering you to be part of DLA and to do business with us,” DLA R&D Operations Strategic Integrator Martina Johnson said, adding that the event’s name highlights the intersection of DLA and small businesses around emerging technology and innovation.

Skubic echoed Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who said at a recent National Defense Industrial Association event that even though America is dealing with near-peer competitors, it’s on top because of the nation’s game-changing innovation.

“In her words, ‘America and our like-minded friends have such vibrant commercial innovation ecosystems because we also have free and open societies of imaginative inventors, doers and problem solvers.’ That’s all of you,” the director said.

One woman and three men, all with microphones, sit in a row on a stage.
Kristin French, the Defense Logistics Agency’s deputy director of logistics operations, left, leads a panel discussion on emerging technology with members of industry and academia during the 4th annual Industry Collider Day at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by Chris Lynch
Photo By: Chris Lynch DLA Photographer
VIRIN: 230911-D-HE260-1011
The pace of today’s rapidly changing technologies makes finding better, resilient solutions a constant race to innovate, she continued.

“Our professionals work with DLA stakeholders to understand and troubleshoot problem areas in the fielding of advance technology in order to employ those sound solutions within budget and at the speed of relevance,” Skubic said, pointing to DLA programs in areas like batteries, casting and forging, and microelectronics as examples.

Sustaining the force

Sustainment may not be thought of as a place for innovation, she said, but DLA must be just as innovative in supplying aging systems as the program offices were in designing and fielding them. The agency’s Small Business Innovation Research Program helps transition prototypes into enduring sustainment solutions. Recent successes include the creation of flexible fuel cells for military helicopters and reverse-engineered seals for air launch cruise missiles.

Small businesses are often the source of leading-edge technology, Skubic added. Today, they’re helping the agency make strides in force readiness, supply chain security and supporting the nation’s nuclear force.

Man speaks from behind a podium
David Koch, director of research and development for the Defense Logistics Agency, describes areas of opportunity for contracts to industry and academia representatives at the 4th annual Industry Collider Day at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by Chris Lynch
Photo By: Chris Lynch DLA Photographer
VIRIN: 230911-D-HE260-1009
David Koch, DLA’s R&D director, said the nuclear enterprise’s age makes it hard to support.

“A lot of the original equipment manufacturers are no longer providing those key parts. There’s no longer a business case for them to do so, so we have been building a cadre of small businesses who are now the backbone of providing many of those parts,” he said.

Nuclear systems once deemed inoperable are now mission ready, he added, because small businesses have helped find solutions to source over 1,000 parts.

Koch said more work is needed and outlined other initiatives for which DLA seeks input. In advanced manufacturing, the agency is working with the military services to standardize processes so additively manufactured parts can eventually be ordered off the shelf like other DLA parts.

“The whole idea is, if you’re a warfighter at the edge and you need a part, how can we get you the right tech data so you can make that part at the point of need? Because we don’t have two years to wait for it to be manufactured; you need to be able to get one right away,” he said.

The agency also needs help boosting supply chain resilience.

Three men stand on a stage holding a large check
Defense Logistics Agency Research and Development Director David Koch, DLA Vice Director Brad Bunn and DLA Acquisition Deputy Director George Atwood hold a check representing the $500,000 worth of contract awards presented to small businesses during the 4th annual Industry Collider Day at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by Chris Lynch
Photo By: Chris Lynch DLA Photographer
VIRIN: 230911-D-HE260-1013
“How do we identify the risks that are out there in the supply chain so they don’t catch us off guard? How can we use advanced techniques to overcome those risks? And how do we decrease the risk to our services? Those are key focus areas,” Koch added.

The event also included a keynote speech from Army Brig. Gen. Stephanie Howard, executive director of operational contract support for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, as well as panel discussions on emerging technology and government contracting processes.

Small business awards

DLA Vice Director Brad Bunn and George Atwood, deputy director of acquisition, concluded the event by presenting contract awards to small businesses that responded to solicitations for proposals in three areas. The agency received over 50 proposals for contracts worth $500,000.

Awards were given through the Small Business Innovation Research Program to help startups and small businesses bridge the gap from research and development to market-ready products. The first solicitation was for a proof-of-concept to reduce reliance on foreign sources for magnesium metal with development of a domestic source to provide industrial quantities. The award went to Crown Magnesium Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Three companies – Metronome Software of Lake Forest LLC, California; Sentar Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama; and Architecture Technology Corporation of Trumansburg, New York – were given awards to help DLA further improve detection of cyberattacks.

Stinn Materials LLC received the final award to develop diverse technologies for new or improved materials, more efficient means of their production and more competitive domestic supply chains that would enable deeper innovation in current and future weapons systems.  

“We rely so much on you, the incredible talent out there who want to work with us, who are excited to work with us to solve these challenges for our warfighters,” Bunn said. “That’s what this Industry Collider Day event is all about.”