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News | Feb. 13, 2017

Aviation senior leaders meet to dial up performance

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office

Senior leaders from across Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s 18 geographical locations within the U.S. traveled to Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, Feb 7-9 to meet with teammates and other DLA, military services and industry leaders to review last year’s performance and discuss how to improve support this year.

This year’s Senior Leader Conference theme was “turn it up a notch.”

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day welcomed attendees and set the tone for the conference by using the 2017 Super Bowl as a metaphor for team performance.

He said football teams, like business teams, tend to fall into certain mindsets.  For example, he suggested some football teams take risks and perform well for a half, and then it seems like they get so far ahead they begin to fear taking more risk. The mindset becomes one of not losing versus winning. On the contrary, other football teams play to win by taking risks and playing offensively until the last second of the last quarter of the game.

Day asked senior leaders where their minds were now, “Are we resting on our laurels?”  After a pause for contemplation he said, “I want to change the game.  I want us all to be hungry, think risk, bet the farm type risk. How do we change our mindsets? Are we letting good enough be the enemy of getting better?” He emphasized that our warfighters count on the support we provide and we need to win every day for them to succeed.

Day urged participants to move around during the conference and get to know each other.  “Think about what you missed [in your goals] last year,” he said. “What constraints or barriers held you back? Reach out to those here; the people you need to help break through barriers and find solutions are in this room.”

During the three-day conference attendees heard from each of the military services learning their perspectives on their missions and the importance of DLA’s support to their success. The in-service briefs started with Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander and former DLA Aviation commander, who was then followed by Navy Capt. Timothy Pfannenstein, Logistics and Industrial Operations executive director, Naval Air System Command who presented the Navy and Marine Corps readiness challenges.  On Day 2, Army Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, deputy chief of staff, U. S. Army Logistics, shared the Army customer perspective.

Johnson spoke about Air Force readiness challenges and highlighted production depot maintenance challenges, specifically for the KC-135.  The KC-135 Stratotanker, is a military aerial refueling aircraft. There are 400 KC-135s in the fleet and they are on a five-year maintenance cycle.  He said he needs to fix 80 aircraft per year and to do this he needs to deliver an operational KC-135 every 4.7 days. He said having the right parts when needed is critical to his timeline.

Pfannenstein shared intelligence on the Naval Aviation Enterprise and the Navy’s plan to improve readiness by moving from being reactive, to proactive, to predictive through data analysis.   He stressed to conference attendees the need to “connect, connect, connect and recognize co-dependencies” within the DLA/Navy/Marine Corps partnership.

Piggee focused on the Army’s readiness and the need to get ahead of the curve. 

“The Army is supporting about 47 percent of the war fight that is going on around the world,” he said. “Open, transparent, and frank communication is absolutely key for both of our communications. I would ask you to provide that to us, to expect and demand that from us to you. In order for you to meet our expectations, we need to tell you what we need, when we need it and where we need it. Unless we are doing that we are failing you and failing the entire system.” 

DLA Information Operations, Chief Information Officer Kathy Cutler and DLA Logistic Operations Deputy Director Mike Scott briefed attendees on headquarter’s initiatives in their areas.

Cutler spoke about the 2017 deployment of the Information Technology modern desktop, which is driven by increased operational tempos in cybersecurity, consolidation of data centers, cost reductions and mandates from the Department of Defense’s chief information officer.

Scott reviewed enterprise initiatives that included the agency’s nuclear enterprise, forward stocking, retail support and audit readiness. He also challenged the Aviation leadership team to strive for higher levels of performance in several areas.

On Day 2, following the “turn it up a notch” theme, DLA Aviation directors briefed attendees on their plans to “move the needle.”  Each director’s brief followed the same format answering three questions, with common themes identified below:

1.     What were two-three missed performance goals that could or should have moved the needle, but didn’t? Readiness, supportability, and backorder reduction

2.     What was the root cause/constraint(s) for the missed goal? Resources and capacity, training, data accuracy and reliability, cross-organizational alignment, prioritization, and collaboration

3.     What physical activity do we need to get done in the next six months to move the needle? Streamline, standardize, and improve processes

Throughout the briefings, several common areas for improvement were identified including, but not limited to:  relationship building across directorates, collaborating and fostering a mutual focus on goals and the path forward.

Dave Graves, chief, Aviation Nuclear Enterprise Support Office, spoke to attendees on Day 2 and gave them an update on the agency’s nuclear enterprise and a new DLA Aviation Nuclear Enterprise Support Office.

Graves said DLA Aviation's Customer Operations Directorate stood up the new office as part of DLA’s commitment to improving warfighter support for nuclear capable weapons systems,  in particular the intercontinental ballistic missile, the air launched cruise missile, the B-52 and B-2 aircraft, and the future deployment of the B-21 bomber.  He highlighted recent successes brought about from the ability to have focused customer collaboration between the new office and the Air Force on particular items, like the ICBM launcher door closure cables and launcher door blub seal.

Graves figuratively pointed to the agency’s more than $200 million inventory investment and DLA Aviation/Air Force partnerships that are providing innovations like the first ever attempt to provide retail support for ICBMs Programmed Depot Maintenance.

“It is a transformational initiative,” Graves said. “ICBMs are now on an eight-year cycle of PDM for their 400 plus sites. The maintenance cycle is 51 days and the Air Force is covering 57 sites a year.”

Graves said this maintenance cycle is possible, in big part, because DLA created point-of-use build sets consisting of transportable containers with needed parts and supplies to perform required ICBM maintenance.  The aviation and distribution leadership teams at Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, are providing strong leadership and making this transformation happen, he said. 

“The containers are transported to the ICBM sites where mechanics perform repairs and then the containers are returned to the DLA Distribution, Hill, Utah, for inventorying, billing and replenishment,” he said.  “DLA will have about 15-18 container build sets in motion for the customer at all times.”

On the third and final day, DLA Aviation Acquisition Executive Cathy Contreras also shared her observations of the acquisition arena and the road ahead with attendees.

She said support of the Captains of Industry initiative will continue and the Time-to-Award initiative will have big goals this year. DLA Aviation will see increases in depot-level repairable workloads and a move by DLR sites into eProcurement automated systems in the next few years.

She believes critical areas for DLA Aviation to focus on in the next year include investing in its people; creating strong cross-organizational relationships, continuous process improvements, and supporting innovations, while understanding the risks associated with it.

DLA Aviation Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli and Day held a lengthy session with attendees that circled back to the directors’ briefs, where they asked the audience what individually and collectively they felt they could do in the next year to “move the needle.”

Lilli said we have heard the customer perspective - DoD will be providing more funds to the military services, industry is under pressure to provide better services at less cost and DLA Aviation will probably have to continue to do more with less.

“What are specific internal physical things or external ‘free asks’ you can identify to help fill the missed performance gaps, to turn performance ‘up a notch?” Lilli asked. 

Day asked attendees if there is something big we can do that isn’t just moving an “inch.”  “Where can we take risks?” he said. “Not everything is important, what do we say no to?”

After much discussion, Lilli summarized gaps identified by attendees that were holding them back from success to include: throughput/production; lack of manpower; focus/prioritization and training. 

Lilli tasked directors and site commanders to come back to him and Day in 30 days with an agreed upon plan to address their perceived gaps.

“Talk with each other, work cross-organizationally and come up with a plan that can be executed,” Lilli said.  “Come up with one internal thing you can do to address the gap and one external ‘free ask’ to help get there. If we get 50 percent of the ideas to work, we will have ‘turned it up a notch.’”

The conference included briefings on the DLA Support Team deployment program, the DLA Center for Planning Excellence and program updates from Katrina Leverette, DLA Aviation’s sexual assault response coordinator and Rocky Weaver, customer account manager, DLA Human Resources.