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News | Sept. 29, 2021

DLA program analyst reflects on agency’s history, epic move

By Dianne Ryder DLA Public Affairs

Editor’s Note: DLA is celebrating 60 years of logistics support since it was created Oct. 1, 1961. The theme is “Forged by History, Focused on the Future.” For more stories, videos, and graphics highlighting the agency’s history and people, go to the DLA 60th Anniversary page

Senior Program Analyst Ken McLain remembers one part of the Defense Logistics Agency’s history well because of his integral role in it. 

In 1995, a Base Realignment and Closure decision closed Cameron Station in Alexandria, Virginia, resulting in the phased transfer of several thousand employees to the new McNamara Headquarters Complex at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The complex was built on the base’s engineering proving grounds specifically for DLA and other tenant organizations.

McLain was hired in 1993 by the DLA Administrative Support Center as the facilities and logistics director but was later tapped to be the relocation manager for DLA’s move to Fort Belvoir. The assignment drew heavily from his background with Army Corps of Engineers in the 1980s.  

“I quickly found out that the average relocation manager either gets fired or ends up in a divorce before the job is done. It’s not an easy job,” said McLain, who now works for DLA Acquisition.

He assembled a team that included an interior designer to create floor plans, color schemes, furniture arrangement and other architectural details like the open atriums with tables and chairs in each pod.  Transportation, warehousing, facilities and union representatives were also on the team.

“Everything you see there today is because of the interior design and other work that our team did in 1995-96,” he said. 

Construction was still ongoing when the first group of employees moved into the building. 

“We had some issues – the atrium banister railings were supposed to be brushed aluminum all the way up, but because of the cost got changed to wire cables below the top rail, giving it a prison look,” he said, adding that faux flowers and plants were added for aesthetic appeal to soften the visual impact. “Originally the plants were live, but that got to be too much of a headache.”

In 1998, McLain joined DLA Logistics Operations to manage public and private competitions for more than 6,000 government positions performing warehousing and installation support functions under the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 as directed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. 

“We saved $2 billion over a 10-year period. Our program was very successful and was recognized by OSD in 2008 as the best A-76 program to achieve real results in the entire Department of Defense,” he said. However, Congress stopped funding new A-76 competitions in 2008 and DLA’s A-76 Program was mothballed in 2012 for lack of funding, he said.

McLain was open for new opportunities in 2013 when then-DLA Acquisition Director Nancy Heimbaugh asked him if he’d help transform DLA Acquisition to become a more strategic and proactive organization. Working with the agency’s leadership, he set up a planning team with senior managers across the agency to develop and implement a DLA Acquisition strategic plan that’s now known as the directorate’s acquisition roadmap. It spells out the organization’s mission, vision, strategic intent, core values, goals, objectives and key metrics. 

“The initial acquisition roadmap was for 2015 and it was relatively simple with four goals and eight objectives,” McLain said, adding that the plan was approved by Heimbaugh’s successor, Matthew Beebe. “It was designed to be a living biennial plan that’s updated every two years.”   

Along the way McLain, picked up a black belt in continuous process improvement and volunteered as the DLA Acquisition culture and climate champion. 

“Culture is performance capability,” McLain said, likening it to racecar performance. “Performance capability is our racecar, but we must also think about the driver and the pit crew in terms of climate, employee resiliency and unit-level leadership. If you don’t pay attention to the driving team, it doesn’t matter how good a racecar you have, you’re not going to win the race.”

He said he’s valued DLA’s reputation since serving in the Army in the early 1980s and believes the agency will continue to expand the mission to support warfighters.

“DLA has become a key whole-of-government supporter working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to natural disasters within our country, as well as leveraging its buying power to support other federal agencies such as Veterans Affairs and NASA. We continue to establish a reputation of being the agency that folks want to come to,” he said. “I think DLA has a record it can be proud of.”