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News | May 1, 2018

A Conversation with ... Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic

By DLA Public Affairs

DLA Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic discusses the results of blunt-force-impact testing for helmets with DLA lab technician Sally Schuster during a visit to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
DLA Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic discusses the results of blunt-force-impact testing for helmets with DLA lab technician Sally Schuster during a visit to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
DLA Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic discusses the results of blunt-force-impact testing for helmets with DLA lab technician Sally Schuster during a visit to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
DLA Land and Maritime Commander Navy Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic discusses the results of blunt-force-impact testing for helmets with DLA lab technician Sally Schuster during a visit to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Photo By: Charles Morris
VIRIN: 180501-D-YE683-025

Can you give us an overview of what DLA Land and Maritime does and how it aligns with the overall DLA mission? 

DLA’s six major subordinate commands supply 86 percent of the military’s spare parts and almost all the consumable items America’s military forces need.

DLA Land and Maritime is one of those six MSCs. Here in Columbus [Ohio] and 37 other locations around the world, we manage two of the agency’s nine supply chains. They both support a variety of weapons systems across the Department of Defense, but we provide dedicated, focused support to the Navy’s surface and subsurface forces and to Army and Marine Corps ground forces.

We do this by leveraging DLA’s well-established global network and by building and maintaining collaboration with the military services, suppliers and other key partners. We communicate frequently with critical stakeholders to ensure our planning and daily activities match current and future operational requirements, optimize sustainment, improve readiness and lethality and enable the full range of military operations worldwide.

Of course, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this without the devoted men and women of our 2,500-plus workforce. Our Land and Maritime associates are the force behind $10 million in daily purchasing, more than 500,000 contract awards annually and over $3 billion in annual sales — all in direct support of more than 2,000 weapon systems. Our people meticulously manage more than 2 million repair parts and can supply anything from tires and batteries to electronic components and motors. They’re embedded with customers all over the world and part of specialized teams providing depot-level repairable and industrial support for the Navy, Army and Marine Corps. 

Our workforce is also responsible for the development, execution and support of special projects and programs. For example, we have a multifunctional team that oversees a counterfeit detection and mitigation program. By identifying and removing fraudulent and substandard contractor materiel, the team directly contributes to supply-chain resiliency and security across the agency.

We also play a key role in strengthening support to the Nuclear Enterprise by managing the repair parts for our nation’s most strategic assets. We recently logged more than 10 years of exceptional support to the Navy’s nuclear reactor program, exceeding performance goals at every step. This is a testament to what an extraordinary team can accomplish throughout DLA.

The Land and Maritime team contributes mightily to DLA’s global impact. DLA exists to ensure our nation has access to the most dependable global logistics solutions, and DLA Land and Maritime stands ready, every day, to do its part to help answer the call.

You’ve just wrapped up your first year in command. What are some of the highlights, and what are your expectations for the coming year? 

Well, I can tell you we’ve had a great year. Our hard work garnered the 2017 Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence — the 10th time our installation has received this prestigious award. Its title might imply purely a focus on installation management, which our installation services team does superbly, and the additional duties the leader in my seat holds as installation commander, hosting two dozen tenant organizations and their 8,000 personnel performing various tasks onboard the Defense Supply Center Columbus. 

Installation excellence is certainly that, but it’s more accurately a reflection of the global and enduring impact our geographically dispersed Land and Maritime team and those other Columbus-based DoD organizations have on our nation’s defense. We share this recognition with all these dedicated patriots.

Looking at the big picture, 2017 saw us develop innovative, strategic solutions to challenges such as obsolescence and a shrinking supplier base in some commodities. We refined our processes and systems to reinforce the supply chains and are investing steadfastly in the professional development, resilience and cohesion of our team. In 2018, this critical work will continue.

And as we turn the page on a new calendar year, we look forward to celebrating a century of supporting our warfighters May 4.

Recently, your two most senior executives retired. As you transition your new leadership team, what changes do you see for DLA Land and Maritime? 

Yes, we’re still working through some senior leadership changes, with a goal of selecting motivated leaders who are well suited to our mission and culture. 

James McClaugherty, our former deputy commander, retired last summer after 14 years in the seat, on the heels of his successful 30-year Air Force career. Admiration for him abounded, by teammates and customers alike, and we lost a wealth of corporate knowledge the day he left. His legacy of commitment continues to inspire our efforts. And as we rebuild our leadership team, the example he set and the positive culture he fostered will undoubtedly serve us well as we face future operational challenges. 

Fortunately, we found a superb new deputy commander and brought Steve Alsup aboard in September. I’m very pleased he’s joined our team. Coming to us after 30 years in Air Force logistics, Steve has the right experience and energy, and his fresh perspective has already inspired innovative approaches to improve our team’s performance. 

We’re also working on filling acquisition executive position after Milt Lewis’ retirement in March. Milt too was an iconic leader in the Land and Maritime front office who left a legacy of acquisition excellence. Our new acquisition executive will focus on examining and honing our procurement processes and re-evaluating training initiatives for our acquisition professionals. 

As this leadership team takes form, we’re engaged with DLA’s increased focus on an operational plan support to the combatant commands. As the ultimate architects of any military engagement, it’s imperative these commands have effective logistics support solutions. DLA-wide, we have amped up our attention here. 

To that end, I often say that it’s in DLA’s DNA to go forward, when needed, where needed, side by side with the warfighter on the battlefield. It may be in the form of people, inventory stock positioning or other solutions to support warfighter sustainment. But without reservation, every current and future procurement process and operational adjustment we make will be implemented with total focus on our warfighter’s success.

Can you share some important initiatives you’re working on that could significantly affect the agency’s current or future operations? 

A couple of our strategic efforts come to mind, all geared to improving DLA’s ability to support the demands of the DoD and the military services.

We’re working proactively with industry partners Raytheon, Rockwell Collins and General Dynamics, among others, to boost readiness through improved procurement strategies and processes — increasing DLA mission-support capabilities.

Our use of a performance-based logistics agreement with Raytheon has achieved efficiencies that have led to follow-on support for the Army’s Patriot Missile system. Using this procurement action is helping consolidate our service spend. The effort on this critical system required close collaboration with Army Contracting Command and was spearheaded by our DLA Land detachment at Aberdeen [Maryland].

We’ve also established a PBL with Rockwell Collins that directly supports our Air Force maintainers at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. By introducing and developing kitting systems that are more cost-effective and more maintenance-technician-friendly, we’re moving from strictly transactional procurement to broader readiness solutions. We’re confident this concept will prove itself through wider use, further improving our capabilities to support warfighters around the globe. 

I don’t want to omit our work with General Dynamics. [As we] target support for the Abrams tank, we’re working with U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command to expand this relationship. This project will enable General Dynamics to improve its operating efficiency while maintaining a manufacturing capability if an increased production need should arise. This procurement action helps increase the DoD’s response capability and mitigates pricing and obsolescence concerns. 

Our renewal of the Global Tire PBL is slated for later in 2018 and will consolidate management of DoD’s tire requirements, with the planned inclusion of Naval aviation tires, enable us to leverage our spend through scale of purchase and improve cost stability. 

Lastly, DLA has ongoing exploratory PBL efforts. This is a results-oriented strategic approach to contracting that would have us tactically positioned to best support future fielded platforms. Exploratory PBLs allow us to develop strategies, often in advance of the need for new weapon platforms. And they let us address current or expected readiness issues.

A few years ago, Land and Maritime established its own People and Culture Directorate. Tell us more about the directorate, its efforts and how the culture has been affected.

DLA’s earlier focus on People and Culture empowered us to create our directorate in 2015, and we’ve had many successes. We’ve recorded the highest Denison Survey results and participation rates in our history, and we continue to see improvements in our onboarding and offboarding surveys. 

As the DLA director, [Army] Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams, often says, “People are our secret sauce.” They’re at the heart of what we do for our nation every day. 

Before we created the directorate, we had multiple culture programs supported by our senior leadership, who served in roles we called culture champions. Additionally, we benefited from the active participation of project managers and very involved culture councils. We stood up the People and Culture Directorate to centrally manage our expanding culture program — which includes our DLA Pathways to Career Excellence internship, numerous change and culture initiatives and other projects and events. The impact has been phenomenal, and we’ll continue to evolve and grow this focused approach to people and culture. 

Mentorship programs are energetically supported here. Mentors, protégés and supervisors frequently praise our program. As our People and Culture program evolves, we’re expanding the scope of our Resiliency Program, and we’ve created a popular People and Culture website to share news, events and programs to keep the workforce constantly engaged. We’re also designing a new Social Contract Program, expanding our College Student Intern Program and increasing opportunities for supervisors to take leadership development training. 

Several of our programs have garnered agencywide attention, and we were recognized for achieving the highest on-time rates among large DLA organizations for earning Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act professional certifications.

The positive atmosphere the People and Culture Directorate creates for our workforce is truly inspiring. We’re definitely better at our mission of serving the warfighter because of our commitment to our cultural efforts. The two go hand in hand. And because we know culture is crucial to our success, we’ll stay on course to improve opportunities for our workforce and sharpening our organization’s competitive edge.

Whole-of-Government is of key interest in today’s climate. How do Land and Maritime’s operations fit into DLA’s support for non-DoD agencies? What are the most relevant capabilities we can offer? 

As we continue to focus intently on our primary mission of logistics support to the U.S. military and allied armed forces, we’ll look for ways our team may be uniquely qualified to support DLA’s expanding Whole of Government mission.

For example, DLA recently provided assistance in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s support to the Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission.

Much of DLA’s contribution came from DLA Troop Support, in the form of items like prepackaged meals, tarps, generators and emergency care items. 

Here at DLA Land and Maritime, we supported FEMA’s Mass Care Items requirement with batteries and water purification supplies, two areas of our expertise. 

We also deployed personnel as part of the DLA Rapid Deployment Teams supporting Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, to help expedite delivery of critical items. Their participation was part of a combined DLA effort to deploy personnel to supplement local first responders. 

I mentioned the intrinsic drive by DLA’s workforce to directly support warfighter missions. Today this commitment may present itself in a contingency or crisis as we expand our support to the whole of government. The greatest proof is the large number of DLA volunteers who raised their hands when we needed rapid deployers to support hurricane relief last year. I’m proud to say that spirit of support is ever-present in the fine patriots on our Land and Maritime team and across the DLA enterprise. 

Your career spans conflicts from Desert Shield to Enduring Freedom. What piece of advice would you give junior supply officers just starting out in their careers? 

First of all, embrace the journey. Relationships with those serving alongside us and our shared experiences through the years are the golden nuggets in our careers. Cherish them. 

While you must find the path that’s right for you, realize that many have gone before you. You don’t always have to be a trailblazer, and you can often benefit from following the trails blazed by others. Trust that you’ll know a good trail when you see one. Know when to follow and when to lead. 

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, because you can’t possibly know what you can accomplish until you do. Sometimes that means comfort with discomfort, as they say, because you won’t have all the answers. Just remember you have a network that’s strong and trusted and stands ready to help you with your greatest challenges. 

Never pass up the opportunity to make a difference; they’re presented to us every day. Find the value in each moment; keep your perspective and a positive attitude. 

When things go wrong, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. In addition, can you help others by sharing? 

See the future for yourself, and dare to tell others what your vision is. Many will step up to help you achieve your aspirations. 

Be passionate, patient and persistent. And again, embrace the exciting journey that lies ahead.