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News | June 17, 2016

Retail side of warfighter support is focus of DLA event

By Chris Erbe

DLA’s Retail Operations Division, in coordination with DLA Land and Maritime, brought total focus to the retail side of DLA's warfighter support at the second Semi-Annual Total Retail Sustainment Review May 24-25 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Participants in the event, called STAR, included DLA headquarters personnel, DLA process owners, personnel from primary-level field activities and commanders from the DLA industrial support activities that have a direct impact on retail industrial operations.

The purpose of the summit was to explore ways to bring more efficiency to DLA’s retail activities and to increase overall agency awareness about the challenges facing DLA’s retail industrial operations.

“Ten percent of DLA’s workforce is in retail industrial operations supporting the DoD industrial activities,” said Navy Capt. Ronald Carr, DLA retail process owner and retail operations division chief. “We want to convey to the other 90 percent of DLA that they have an effect on our ability to be successful in supporting these industrial activities.”

DLA supports 20  DoD industrial activities, which include Navy fleet readiness centers, Army depots, Navy shipyards, Marine Corps logistics bases and Air Force logistics complexes. Organizers plan to hold STAR events at a different site each time so that participants can see firsthand the mission each industrial activity performs and how DLA affects their operations. The first STAR event was held in October 2015 at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base.

As part of the STAR summit, officials gave participants a tour and overview of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the oldest continuously operating Navy base in the nation. The shipyard’s primary mission is the maintenance, repair and modernization of the Navy’s nuclear submarine force.

“It’s a tough business to deliver these ships, but we’ve had great success delivering on time and on budget,” Navy Capt. William Greene, commanding officer of the shipyard, said in his presentation to the group. “A portion of that success is due to parts support, which is where DLA comes in. It takes a team effort, and DLA is part of the team here at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

Greene discussed how a submarine must undergo an engineered overhaul after about 20 years of duty. While in dry dock, workers maintain a strict schedule, removing parts for repair or replacement in order, and reinstalling them in the reverse order. Any delay due to a problem procuring a single part can disrupt the schedule, creating devastating financial consequences and loss of military readiness.

“Just one back order on a component causes a chain reaction that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day,” Greene said. “The last sub that we worked on [USS Alexandria (SSN 757)] was the fastest engineered overhaul on record. It was completed two weeks early and $9 million under budget. We’re very proud of our part in national defense — we could not do it without all of you.”

The history of DLA’s retail operations goes back to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission round and a June 2005 decision by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics to consolidate the supply, storage and distribution functions supporting depot operations, maintenance and production at the industrial activities of the four major services. The decision brought DLA employees into direct contact with the agency’s customers at the industrial activities like the one at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Although DLA has achieved successes over the years in supporting the services at the retail level, there are still plenty of challenges to address, which is why organizers brought together the various elements of DLA at the STAR summit. One of those challenges is the lack of standard systems and procedures among the services.

“We just don’t have the level of standardization in the retail processes that we have in the wholesale environment,” Carr said. “Each of our industrial sites, even those within the same service, is unique. Consolidation and standardization is a monumental task, and we need to try and synchronize and achieve process excellence by unifying retail processes.”

During the meeting, Carr was recognized for his outstanding support for his country and DLA retail operations on his retirement June 1 from the Navy. The incoming retail operations division chief, Robert Therriault, attended the STAR summit as well.

“We’re trying to go from the walk to the run,” Therriault said. “It’s about trying to standardize these processes so we can streamline and be vertical. There used to be service logisticians serving their customers — they are now DLA logisticians. At these sites, DLA is in direct support of a maintenance line, and it’s a different level of urgency.”

“We need to put more investment and management attention into retail,” said James McClaugherty, acting director of DLA Land and Maritime. “There’s a lot to do, and maybe the most important thing we can take away from this meeting is to go back and advocate and inspire the rest of the agency. We’re still a wholesale-oriented agency that’s got to learn that retail is different. So let’s go back and start spreading the gospel about retail.”