FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
As the Defense Logistics Agency looks to improve its support to the nuclear enterprise, two of DLA’s field activities, Aviation and Land and Maritime, are strengthening their support to the military’s nuclear mission with an eye on being complete partners with the services.
DLA Aviation has long supported Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as B-2 and B-52 bombers and portions of the nuclear command and control communications system with repair parts, and is now building on its existing support to the Air Force’s nuclear mission, integrating with the service to present a more complete support picture, said Steve Kinskie, DLA Aviation operations officer and chief of staff. That support has been delivered much like the support the agency provides to countless other weapons systems, he said, but as the Air Force changes the way it handles its ICBM assets, DLA is modifying its support to partner with the service.
The Air Force is conducting a “line of demarcation,” which is an effort to determine which portions of the ICBM program, including the missiles, silos, launch facilities and other support pieces, fall under the weapons system category and need DLA support, Kinskie said.
“The Air Force hasn’t been managing the ICBM like other weapons systems for decades now,” he said. “So this is a recent phenomenon with the Air Force looking at this as a weapons system approach. This is new not just for us, embedding with the ICBMs like the other weapons systems, but it’s also new for the Air Force.”
To help the Air Force with this effort, DLA Aviation hired a dedicated weapons system program manager for the ICBM and a weapons system support manager for the Rivet Minuteman Mile Integrated Life Extension program, which is a depot maintenance activity. Aviation leaders also work hand-in-hand with the ICBM program office and its lead customers in numerous forums, including weekly teleconferences and the actual procurement planning process, Kinskie said.
“We try to leverage our ability to provide stellar parts support with them so that we can get a better picture,” he said. “We’ve embedded ourselves into the processes that the Air Force uses for support from the planning and procurement side of the house, and we’re advising on ways that DLA can leverage our buying capability to provide better support.”
DLA does not have any specific formal support agreements with the Air Force for nuclear support, said Lt. Col. Greg Ogorek, DLA Aviation customer relationship management operations officer. The Nuclear Enterprise Support Office and the Air Force National Account Manager team at DLA Headquarters are working on those formal agreements, he said, while DLA Aviation works with the Air Force to determine what that support will look like.
DLA Aviation’s support to the B-2 and B-52 bombers has always been a partnership with the Air Force, Kinskie said. Those two aircraft were treated as weapons systems, but under the new effort to increase support to the nuclear enterprise, requests for those systems will have a higher priority. Aviation is also working with NESO on identifying opportunities for investment strategies to increase support to the bombers, he said.
As DLA Aviation moves toward a more comprehensive support structure for the Air Force’s nuclear assets, Ogorek said he sees a potential challenge in the availability of some parts and materials, because the weapons systems, like the B-52, are older. Aviation is working with industrial partners and the service’s engineering activities to mitigate those challenges, he said.
The Air Force will probably complete the line of demarcation this fall, Kinskie said, and right now DLA’s support is a bit ahead of the service, which helps the Air Force in its efforts. He said he has gotten positive feedback from the service on DLA support, and when the service determines its exact support needs, the effort will gain speed.
“As they peel back the onion on that, they realize there’s more things that may or may not be included, so the more they look at it, the more complex the issue becomes,” he said. “The key is that we’re engaged each step of the way and we’re standing by ready to support, and we’re postured to go ahead and support, regardless of what decisions the Air Force makes.”
At DLA Land and Maritime, support to Ohio-class submarines has been an ongoing process rooted in a partnership with the Navy.
The Navy has 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, which can each carry up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple, independently-targeted warheads. Ohio-class submarines can operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls, but on average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in port for maintenance.
DLA supports the Ohio-class submarines at a strategic and transactional level, said Air Force Col. Brad Tannehill, DLA Land and Maritime chief of staff. Strategic support is handled through the readiness office, where a weapon system support manager provides dedicated support to the Ohio-class submarines and works directly with various Navy commands. The support manager attends meetings in support of the Ohio-class like the Strategic Submarine Supply Support Review and Trident Support Group meetings and provides performance metrics to various activities detailing supply support, he said.
At the transactional level, the Ohio-class is supported by a submarine team of customer account specialists who focus on expediting backorders from Ohio-class submarines and support activities, Tannehill said. In total, DLA manages almost 60,000 items for the Ohio-class submarines in multiple classes of supply managed by several agency field activities, he noted.
DLA has had a performance-based agreement with the Navy since 2011 that specifies performance metrics and goals that Navy and DLA leaders use as indicators of success in support of naval logistics, Tannehill said. Three weapon systems within the nuclear enterprise require material availability to be reported monthly, he said. The Strategic Weapon System has a material availability goal of 95 percent, and the Naval Reactors Program has a goal of 95 percent. DLA Land and Maritime has exceeded the Naval Reactors Program goal for 92 consecutive months, averaging 97 percent material availability, and consistently exceeded the Strategic Weapon System and Ohio-class SSBN goals with annual average availabilities of 95.8 percent and 93.1 percent, respectively.
DLA Land and Maritime faces challenges supporting the submarines, because many of the systems are older, and the industrial base for repair parts is shrinking, Tannehill said. Because the submarines aren’t as numerous as other weapons systems, and DLA often goes years without needing to buy parts, the agency can’t buy in the bulk quantities like it does with other systems, he noted. However, DLA’s close working relationship with the Navy ensures parts are available when needed, and moving forward, Land and Maritime leaders plan to expand that relationship to improve support to the service, he said.
“Our weapon system support managers are heavily engaged with the program manager and fleet to identify requirements much earlier in the life cycle,” he said. “It’s this relationship that garners much praise for DLA Land and Maritime’s outstanding support to the nuclear enterprise.”