DoD A&S leader: DLA, industry achieving National Defense Strategy goals

By Beth Reece

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The Defense Logistics Agency has an enormous, daily impact on warfighters as it builds lethality and strengthens alliances with NATO partners while also reforming business practices, Ellen Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during DLA Industry Day July 31 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex on Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“We’re operating in a super complex environment. The fact that DLA puts out about 10,000 contracts a day is really phenomenal, and it takes a lot of discipline to do that, to have the transparency and the accountability that’s required when you’re using taxpayer dollars,” she told DLA employees and industry representatives from about 170 businesses.

Pushing warfighter capabilities downrange quickly at the best cost is critical to the National Defense Strategy, she said. Financial data and readiness metrics collected by DLA help demonstrate how the Defense Department is achieving that in an easy-to-understand format despite complexities.

“The warfighter in Afghanistan doesn’t understand the constraints of whether we’re able to come through Pakistan or whether we have to get overflight clearances to bring fuel and other supplies in,” she said. “All of that is done in the background quietly and professionally.”

DLA also works with over 100 foreign customers to ensure U.S. and allied troops have equipment that allows them to establish forward bases and work together in joint overseas locations. The agency’s experience with requirements like export licenses and cultural sensitivities are why DLA was tasked with parts support for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, she said. 

The agency continues to have a critical role in changing the way DoD conducts business and involves streamlining processes, providing quicker logistics support and reducing overhead costs, Lord continued. 

“When it comes to reforming the way business is done, DLA has stood out in terms of being able to lay out goals with a credible plan behind them and then bring savings,” she said, calling DLA a pace setter in using economies of scale and long-term contracts to achieve results.

Cybersecurity has become one of DoD’s largest challenges, Lord added. “The No. 1 issue we find that basically puts us in a defeated situation the most quickly is attacks on our supply chains.” 

Tabletop exercises modeling conflicts around the world reveal vulnerabilities that must be addressed jointly by DLA, U.S. Transportation Command and industry, she said. DoD expects to roll out cybersecurity standards in 2020. They will incorporate best practices from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and Carnegie Melon University’s Software Engineering Institute. 

“We’re already having conversations under the framework of some of the industry associations on what the cyber standards are going to look like,” she said. “We can no longer afford to have critical information in our supply chains compromised by adversaries through cyberattacks.” 

Lord applauded DLA’s military and civilian employees and contractors for making DoD a credible organization often relied on for input on emerging issues by other government agencies like the Department of State and White House officials. 

“It all comes down to the people, and DLA has figured out how to communicate, how to attract, how to develop, how to retain talent,” she said.

Events like DLA Industry Day reinforce DoD’s partnership with the defense industry and help share information manufacturers need to meet future demands, she continued.

“I have very high expectations of DLA and our industry partners that we will continue to be very transparent, that we will be accountable for our actions and that we remember who our customer is. It’s the warfighter,” she added.

To view a video of the event, visit https://www.dla.mil/HQ/Acquisition/Business/Enterprise-Industry/.