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News | Aug. 25, 2022

DLA leaders outline joint logistics strategies for Iraqi reform team 

By Beth Reece

The Defense Department’s leading logistics agency shared insights into how it equips and sustains U.S. forces during a four-hour presentation for members of a military reform team from Iraq’s Ministry of Defense Aug. 23 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex. 

The visit to the Defense Logistics Agency is part of a two-week trip by the Iraq Ministerial Reform Committee to learn about operational readiness from the U.S. military. The group is being led by representatives of the U.S. embassy from Baghdad, Defense Security Cooperation Agency and NATO Mission Iraq. 

“DLA offers diversity as we look across joint systems and multiple program executive offices, and information about DLA’s command structure is helpful as the reform committee looks at how to apply limited resources to sustaining the entire defense of Iraq,” said Ryan Schwankhart, a RAND Corporation analyst assisting DSCA. 

Leaders from DLA Headquarters gave overviews on topics including end-to-end supply chain management, funding, acquisition processes and the information technology systems that help the agency track worldwide assets.

Change has been essential to DLA’s ability to become a vast global logistics enterprise, DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Michelle Skubic told the group.

“In a complex and dynamic world, change is essential, so I commend you on your effort to reform,” she said. 

Since DLA was established in 1961, the agency has strived to gain efficiencies and effectiveness that save time and money. 

“This desire to continuously improve still goes on today,” Skubic said, adding that she hoped the meeting provided insights to help the Iraqis accomplish reform goals in their own institutions, systems, policies and procedures. 

DLA emerged from the broad authority of the Secretary of Defense and was designated a Combat Support Agency under OSD to carry out logistics activities common to military departments, DLA Logistics Operations Director Navy Rear Adm. Doug Noble told the group. He also described the six major subordinate commands that manage over 5 million items. 

Statutory and regulatory laws as well as formal agreements define the support DLA provides to organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Health Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Noble added.

Art Hagler, DLA’s chief financial officer, explained that DLA operates under a business-like construct in which military services and some federal agencies buy goods and services sold by the agency. Prices are set through annual DOD budget processes based on anticipated demand to bring accumulated operating costs to zero. 

Schwankhart said the group is also interested in modernizing equipment accountability records as well as readiness data and sales transactions, so DLA Information Operations’ Kari Riskedahl outlined some of the 194 systems that enable everything from order placement and shipping status to the turn-in of excess items. 

Fostering good communications with a defense industrial base of 10,000 suppliers is a key part of DLA’s strategic plan, DLA Acquisition Director Matt Beebe added. Just over 90% of DLA’s $38.4 billion in contract obligations during fiscal 21 went to domestic suppliers, he said. 

DLA Aviation provided details on its roles and missions in weapons systems sustainment with support for the F-16 fighter being a primary example of a complex, expensive program to manage. The Iraqi military has purchased F-16s from the U.S., and Schwankhart said the reform team asked for information on overseeing the program from a DLA perspective.

DLA Troop Support also provided details on how it equips service members with everything from uniforms and food to construction material. 

This is the first visit from members of the Iraqi military since September 2017. It’s also the 24th visit organized this year by DLA’s foreign visit coordinator, Greg Wilson.

“We’re proud of what we do at DLA; we’re competent and capable. And if you’re interested in understanding how and why we do things, we’re not afraid to share that,” he said. 

Military leaders from other countries often realize improvements that can be made in their own processes when learning about DLA’s capabilities and how it leverages logistics on a global scale, Wilson added. 

“These improvements can be helpful if they find themselves working with us in DLA in support of future endeavors such as disaster relief situations or others,” he said.