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News | April 1, 2017

Sustain and Deter

By Cathy Hopkins



Nuclear missiles may not be what most people think of when they think of the Defense Logistics Agency, but DLA plays a key role in making sure the nation’s strongest deterrents are always at the ready.

That’s why, when Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch took command of DLA in 2014, he committed the agency to improving its support to the nuclear enterprise. One of his goals as director was to synchronize nuclear support across the agency while making DLA a part of the overall support strategy as the military services modernized their nuclear assets.

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day and the DLA Aviation team are also committed to improving nuclear support. DLA Aviation has become the agency’s lead for support of the Minuteman III, an intercontinental ballistic missile. Land-based ICBMs are one leg of the nuclear triad, along with ICBMs carried by heavy bombers and on submarines.

Recognizing the benefits of synchronizing support efforts across DLA and within the activity, DLA Aviation recently stood up the Aviation Nuclear Enterprise Support Office, in its Customer Operations Directorate. The new NESO office focuses on improving nuclear weapons capabilities, in particular for land-based ICBMs, the air-launched cruise missile, the B-52 and B-2 aircraft and the future deployment of the B-21 bomber.

Dave Graves, chief of the new office, updated leaders on DLA Aviation’s NESO efforts during DLA Aviation’s Senior Leader Conference, Feb. 7-9, 2017, at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. He highlighted the collaboration between the DLA Aviation NESO office and the Air Force on the ICBM launcher door closure cables and launcher door bulb seal, resulting in modifications that had been needed for several years.

Graves pointed to DLA Aviation/Air Force innovations like the first attempt to provide retail support for Minuteman III’s programmed depot maintenance. He described the efforts of two DLA teams in Utah: DLA Aviation at Ogden and DLA Distribution Hill, at Hill Air Force Base. These teams worked with Air Force partners at Hill Air Force Base to create a support structure to supply the Air Force’s three ICBM wings.

“It is a transformational initiative,” Graves said.

He noted that ICBMs are now on an eight-year cycle of programmed depot maintenance for 450 launch facilities (the missile silos and the attached buildings) and 45 launch-control centers (the underground control hub for a network of 10 LFs, where the crew stands watch and, if ordered, launches the missile). The maintenance cycle is 51 days, and the Air Force is covering 57 launch facilities a year.

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

DLA Distribution Hill’s Deployable Medical Systems Activity designed two types of build sets, one for LCCs and one for LFs. The build set for LCC contains approximately 202 DLA-managed national stock numbers valued at $46,800 per build set, supporting 15 maintenance tasks. The Air Force will require a couple of LCC build sets per year per base.

The LF build set contains 294 DLA-managed NSNs valued at $96,210 per set, supporting 26 maintenance tasks.

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

The 309th Maintenance Group, also at Hill Air Force Base, will manage the maintenance planning and the ICBM induction repair schedule.

On Jan. 30, Air Force Col. John Waggoner, director of customer operations at DLA Aviation, joined with team members from Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, and the Air Force Sustainment Center for their ICBM Sustainment Roadshow. Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, the team visited Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A visit to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, is planned.

Air Force senior leaders planned the events as candid talks with maintenance troops, defenders and operators on Minuteman III status and the way forward until the new ICBM weapon system, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, begins deployment in the late 2020s.

The Minuteman III missile fleet was fielded in the 1970s with an initial 10-year service life, while its launch, command and control systems date to the 1960s.

The “Roadshow” team shared sustainment improvement actions taken, in progress and the impact of the actions for the maintainers in the field.

Waggoner represented DLA on the combined team. He said he felt fortunate to deliver DLA’s message and proof of its commitment.

“The first round of visits provided an unprecedented opportunity for the collective Air Force nuclear enterprise support chain to stand before the members who execute the mission, so we could share the progress and stand answerable for our efforts to strengthen the nuclear enterprise,” Waggoner said.

“As a key member of the support chain, DLA was at the top of the Air Force’s invite list for the roadshow. It is important we stand beside the rest of the Air Force support team we interact with daily.”

“It’s always refreshing to interact with the customer face-to-face on their turf, and the roadshow was no exception,” Waggoner said. “The presence of the entire support chain, together, enabled us to quickly focus and tackle concerns on the spot. Our nuclear customers continued to make huge strides over the last several years, but many challenges still exist.”

The daily demands of sustaining a capability with zero defects are great. Balancing that need for zero defects with the need for preventive measures requires enormous effort. During the trip, Waggoner said he learned of several emerging support challenges DLA is integral to solving, but as Air Force personnel commented during the roadshow, the severity of those challenges is less as DLA brings solutions to the table in close coordination with the Air Force.

Waggoner said Team DLA could stand firmly behind its achievements and its progress toward other goals.

“Almost every area within DLA is involved in the nuclear enterprise. DLA set aside more than $200 million for nuclear enterprise parts procurement, of which $37 million was for Minuteman III PDM,” he said. “In the last 10 months, Air Force nuclear site materiel availability has risen 5 percent.”



Troop Support Launches Dedicated Nuclear Enterprise Support

Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support heralded the launch of focused sustainment of the Defense Department’s nuclear capabilities with the official establishment of the local Nuclear Enterprise Support Office during a ceremony Feb. 27.

The office will coordinate the support that DLA Troop Support’s five supply chains provide to nuclear weapons systems platforms, including submarines, aircraft carriers and strategic, long-range bombers.

Each supply chain has a division chief managing materiel support to the nuclear enterprise. Additionally, the Industrial Hardware and Construction and Equipment supply chains established integrated supplier teams to support the enterprise.

It was difficult to ensure materiel availability for all the items the weapons systems required before the concepts behind the NESO were established, said Kathy Nitka, NESO program integrator.

“It’s very hard to manage things if they’re spread out over the supply chains,” Nitka said. “But now there are materiel planners working to directly support these specific weapons systems.”

Nitka said an example is the Navy requiring food, medical supplies and other equipment stocked on submarines before leaving port. Tying all of those items to the nuclear enterprise nets them a higher priority over other customers’ requirements.

In January 2015, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch created the agency’s NESO under DLA Logistics Operations to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to supporting the nuclear triad.

The strategic importance of the nuclear weapons systems prompted the creation of the NESO, said Air Force Col. Stephen Petters, DLA executive director of logistics operations.

“We’re dedicating teams of people to make sure DLA is exactly where we need to be to support these activities from the services,” Petters said.

Nitka said that she appreciates the agency’s efforts to align the work across supply chains to sustain the nuclear enterprise.

“I don’t think any other program is set up like this,” Nitka said. “Under this program, we are absolutely one DLA.”

— Jason Kaneshiro