DLA Joint Reserve Force, Audit Task Force commander retires with 32 years

By Beth Reece

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Change is just another word for opportunity to Navy Rear Adm. Deborah Haven. Whether leading sailors conducting a traditionally Army sustainment mission in Kuwait or helping refine the Defense Logistics Agency’s operating and business procedures so it can achieve a clean audit, the DLA Joint Reserve Force director has steadily embraced change.

“The pattern in my career has been to get assigned to startups or some new change and then get people together and organized to figure out the future,” she said. “I like to mentor folks, and I tell the people who work for me that change is opportunity.” 

The Philadelphia native will retire Sept. 6 with 32 years of service as a reservist. She joined the Navy after falling in love with logistics in college, wanting to be part of the military’s vast, global mission.

“I grew up in a patriotic family. My father was a WW II veteran who flew with the C47 pilots that dropped paratroopers on D-Day, and my husband was on active duty in the Navy,” she said. 

Uncle Sam took her to 28 nations – including Kuwait, Japan, Italy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Cuba – and gave her jobs she describes as impactful. Of all her contributions to DLA, she’s most proud of increasing reservists’ participation in military training exercises that help troops maintain readiness for contingencies and humanitarian relief efforts. Before she arrived in 2016, only a handful of reservists assisted in exercises. In 2018, more than 150 reservists took part in 19 exercises including Rim of the Pacific and Pacer Goose. Haven also tested the JRF’s expeditionary capability by sending an 11-member support team to Poland in support of Saber Strike in June 2018. 

“Exercises give our reservists the ability to flex their muscles and go into new environments where they don’t know anyone. It gets them prepared, so when they have to mobilize they have more self-confidence about their capability,” she said.

Kris Kremer, JRF deputy director, described Haven as a visionary who brings out the best in those around her

“Rear Adm. Haven’s leadership has advanced the DLA Joint Reserve Force across every spectrum, culminating in dramatic increases in readiness and manpower, as well as improved culture, training, and exercise and mission support,” Kremer said. “In the year I’ve been her deputy, I’ve been in awe of her commitment to reservists, DLA and the Navy.”

Leading Defense Contract Management Agency International before coming to DLA was one of Haven’s most memorable assignments. There, she worked with foreign military and U.S. State Department leaders in standing up the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and defining quality assurance measures for a production plant in Italy. She also enjoyed leading soldiers, sailors and airmen in contingency operations in Qatar as chief of staff of U.S. Central Command’s Joint Theater Support Contracting Command. 

“And I was asked to go to Jordan to help with humanitarian efforts there for Syrian refugees,” she said. “These assignments went well beyond what I expected as a Navy Supply Corps Officer and they increased my skillset while challenging my capabilities. That’s the experience I wanted for the service members I’ve had the honor to lead.”

Haven was commanding the Third Navy Expeditionary Logistics Regiment in 2010 when she got the call to quickly take a team of 20 sailors to Cuba to provide logistic for recovery efforts following a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. 

The vast opportunities and missions abroad motivated Haven to continue serving. She was also inspired by those she led. 

“Talking with sailors and soldiers on ships or out in the field, it’s easy to wonder how we get these wonderful Americans to sacrifice every day,” she said. “They’re riding in Humvees at 100 degrees with all their gear or deployed away from their families for nine months. It’s pretty amazing.” 

Haven was asked in fall 2018 to head DLA’s Audit Task Force, a separate staff element that leads the agency’s efforts to achieve a clean financial statement. The ATF provides a systemic structure for tracking over 300 Notice of Findings and Recommendations from an independent auditor, as well as crafting corresponding corrective action plans. Getting employees across the agency to recognize DLA’s audit goals as work that involves everyone was a challenge, she said.

“Audit is the new normal. It permeates everything we do. It’s not just about these people over there or J8 or the ATF,” she said. “I think we’ve made a turn on getting people on board with that, and we’re not there by any stretch of the imagination.”

The admiral will retire near Columbus, Ohio, where she also worked for DLA Land and Maritime as a civilian for 22 years supporting Navy submarines.