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News | Sept. 20, 2018

Agency hosts industry leaders in quest to meet rising demand via closer collaboration

By John R. Bell

Senior leaders from the Defense Logistics Agency hosted more than 200 defense-industry counterparts in the first-ever DLA Industry Day Sept. 19 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

Attendees from across the United States represented over 100 companies who provide a range of critical military supplies, from tires to aircraft parts to fuel and electronics.

DLA senior leaders used the event to ask for industry’s help reversing recent declines in the availability of some items DLA supplies the military services — and to give the companies who supply those items a detailed sense of the expected demand over the next few years.

Improving and maintaining the ability of DLA to supply those items when the services or other customers ask for them — known as materiel availability — requires DLA and industry to work closely together, noted Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, the director of DLA. DLA’s part of the bargain is to keep industry informed of near-term future demand for those items, and in return, the agency needs industry to strive for reduced quote times and increased on-time delivery, he said.

Increases in demand have  been seen across the major supply categories, including aviation, industrial hardware, land-based platforms and maritime weapons systems, noted Michael Scott, DLA’s deputy director of logistics operations.

Since fiscal 2016, demand has gone up by 12 percent for aircraft parts; for industrial hardware by 7 percent; for land systems, by 25 percent; and for maritime systems by 18 percent, Scott told the audience.

The pace of this increase is “more than … forecasting tools can keep up with,” he said.

Putting those increases in perspective, Williams observed that those demand levels approach those seen in the 2009 “surge” in Afghanistan.

The future demand is clearly visible in the requirements all four military services outlined in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, Scott said. For example: In fiscal 2019, the  Army will see a 4 percent increase in flight hours, and the Air Force will see a 28 percent increase. The Marine Corps will increase its training outside the continental United States by 20 percent, and the Navy will see a 12 percent increase in maintenance at its aviation depots.

Adding to these are rising demands borne of DLA’s growing support to “whole of government” efforts, such as hurricane relief led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and wildland firefighting supported by the U.S. Forest Service, Scott said.

But the spikes in demand for specific parts or other supplies is harder to predict, he noted.

This is why DLA is committed to giving industry more information, sooner, Williams explained. To give military vendors a better sense of near-term demand, DLA is boosting its industry engagement through events like Industry Day, as well as more focused demand planning, he said.

The general pointed to a demand-planning session earlier this year where DLA leaders identified a collective 25 percent increase in demand that otherwise might not have been predicted.

“We now have the opportunity to get ahead of this,” Williams noted, adding that the planning summit, like DLA/Industry Day, will become an annual event.

Defense contractors can help DLA increase materiel availability in a few key ways, Scott said: by increasing the frequency of their communication with the agency; striving to provide quotes on solicitations more quickly; and reducing the amount of “suspended stock” DLA receives — items that arrive with damage, inaccurate labeling or missing documentation. Such items added up to $400 million in unusable goods last year.

Williams emphasized how crucial the partnership with industry is to DLA’s ability to sustain the military services, as well as the other federal agencies DLA supplies.

“Everybody in this room is a partner, “Williams told the audience of industry leaders. “There are no customers in here.”

Following the opening session were breakout discussions led by the commander of each DLA major subordinate command.