First-ever DLA Industry Day helps agency promote key SECDEF priorities

By John R. Bell

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The Defense Logistics Agency’s inaugural DLA Industry Day Sept. 19 took concrete steps to push the agency and its industry partners to make greater strides in promoting the key priorities set by the secretary of defense: improved readiness, strengthened partnerships and better business practices.

In his opening remarks, Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, the director of DLA, outlined DLA’s greater engagement with the industrial suppliers it relies on will help achieve those priorities.

“DLA is taking a proactive approach to assisting with the secretary of defense’s No. 1 priority, which is improving the readiness and lethality of the services,” Williams told the audience of more than 200 representatives from the defense industry, along with senior leaders from DLA and the military services.

“I honestly and truly believe that through better collaboration — which we’ve always done with the services — we’ll take it to a higher level.”

In a departmentwide memorandum issued last fall, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called on all DoD employees to focus on three lines of effort.

“First, restore military readiness as we build a more lethal force” the secretary urged in the Oct. 5, 2017, memo. “We will execute a multi¬≠year plan to rapidly rebuild the warfighting readiness of the Joint Force, filling holes in capacity and lethality while preparing for sustained future investment,” Mattis continued.

Key to rebuilding that warfighting readiness are DLA and the commercial suppliers who manufacture the items the services use — meaning it’s crucial that the agency and industry work even more closely than before, Williams said.

To make that happen, DLA will provide industry more frequent, more detailed updates on the expected demand for military items, he said.

“One of the things we constantly hear is that we need more of a corporate dialogue with you,” Williams told the audience. “What you always tell me is, ‘If we understood your requirements better, more than a lead time away, we’d be in a better position to assist.’ … And in return, we’ll need better quote times and better on-time delivery.”

“We’re trying to do a better job of capturing corporate-level requirements,” Williams continued. “I know all of you, for example, have individual relationships with our major subordinate commands, individual relationships with some of our contracting officers. However, we want to make sure that we are delivering to you in a corporate way our requirements.”

Enhancing those relationships not only will improve readiness; it also ties into the secretary’s second line of effort stated in his memo: “Strengthen alliances and attract new partners.”

“Truth be told, DLA is a requirements gatherer,” Williams told the Industry Day participants. “We provide this service for all our whole-of-government and military service partners. But the organizations that deliver that capability are sitting in this room.”

“And so clearly, some of it is in the organic industrial base, but a huge part of it is in the commercial industrial base, represented by the people sitting in this room and many who are not.” To that end, “We’re going to identify very specific and tangible business opportunities with DLA that we foresee over the next two fiscal years,” Williams said.

“All of this is about delivering readiness to the services and providing better support to our whole-of-government partners,” he added.

Restoring gaps in military readiness was the key theme of Industry Day, as DLA senior leaders gave industry the latest data on which items supplied by DLA have seen the greatest gaps in availability. The DLA representatives also offered their best estimates of which items would have the greatest demand in the near future.

“Third, bring business reforms to the Department of Defense” was Mattis’s last line of effort in his department wide memo. The secretary called for “budget discipline and effective resource management” along with “a culture of rapid and meaningful innovation, streamlines requirements and acquisition processes.”

To that end, DLA works with industry to gain the greatest effectiveness per taxpayer dollar spent, through tools like performance-based logistics and continued leveraging of small business, noted Matthew Beebe, DLA’s director of acquisition.

Beebe pointed to recent findings from the Section 809 Panel, named for an acquisition-focused section of the fiscal 2017 NDAA and tasked with finding ways to make defense acquisition more efficient. The panel identified ways DoD should refocus its policies and programs for engaging small business, to put the first priority on mission support and warfighter readiness by changing organizational reporting and by tracking mission-oriented metrics more closely.

In addition, as the department leads new efforts to reform other areas of defense logistics, “we’re very active in the dialogue, as much of what DLA does is part of the focus of many of the [OSD] reform teams,” Beebe noted.

Finally, DLA is collaborating with other federal agencies to reduce redundancies, Beebe said. He pointed to DLA’s active collaboration with General Services Administration as GSA implements a governmentwide e-commerce platform.

Williams emphasized that DLA, the services and industry partners each play a crucial role “to deliver the readiness that our services demand — which is the first priority of our secretary of defense.”