Fort Belvoir, VA, Sept. 1, 2019 —
You became the Military Services Support Division’s deputy director in May. How does your previous experience prepare you to lead DLA’s customer-facing representatives to the military?
I’ve been with DLA just over four years and most recently served as deputy director of the DLA - U.S. Transportation Command Support Division
. It was a good fit because I had been at USTRANSCOM for 12 years before that. Although I didn’t grow up in supply, USTRANSCOM is the process coordinator for joint deployment and distribution. So I worked with a lot of the key players up and down the supply chain, and I understood the challenges of delivering stuff to our customers.
Also, last year I was detailed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to work on logistics reform. A lot of the things we discussed are now being embraced throughout the military, and I can help shape the future of DLA’s support to the services with some knowledge of where they’re heading in terms of change.
What do National Account Manager teams and customer support representatives do for DLA and warfighters?
DLA collaborates with customers daily. A lot of that interaction is done through our National Account Manager teams for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as customer support representatives on the ground with strategic partners. The NAM teams are in sync with logisticians and other functional areas at the services’ headquarters. They’re involved in discussions regarding key weapons systems, warfighter capabilities and overall readiness at brigade levels. CSRs, on the other hand, are focused on military customers at the operational and tactical levels to help them solve day-to-day issues at individual units and industrial centers where mechanics are on the shop floor making repairs. Collectively, the NAM teams and CSRs ensure DLA is building relationships at all levels of the services. They help build trust and connect the dots between issues, potential problems and solutions.
The fact that our teams are a blend of military and civilian folks means we’re getting timely insight into what’s important from the field as well as continuity in relationships. Our military members are the best source of information on what our operational customers need. We also like getting service members from DLA’s Agency Synchronization Operations Center because they’ve learned DLA from an operational standpoint. The civilians, however, give the teams continuity to take us through leadership changes both in DLA and across the services. They also know what has or hasn’t worked and why.
In what ways do the military support teams shape DLA’s relationships with the services?
We shape them in the sense that we are intentionally DLA’s face to the customer. That means we get everything from questions about our supply functions to requests from the Army to have someone speak at an ROTC graduation. We’re focused on the supply and demand piece of their business, of course, but our teams represent this big agency we call DLA to their particular service. Connecting customers to whichever process owner or part of the agency can best address their issues is our job. In that sense, the NAMs are like switchboard operators. We’re very interested in getting customers the information and help they need.
How do the NAM teams differ?
The NAM teams are different because each service and mission is different. The Marine Corps is very expeditionary, for example. They’re lean and light while an Army brigade is big and heavy. The Air Force is also very expeditionary and has the lead on the new U.S. Space Force. The new Army Futures Command is also taking shape. It’s not expected to be a big command, but these guys are going to be talking about the future. Obviously, DLA needs to be part of the discussions about each service’s changing priorities.
Another way the NAM teams differ stems from the unique structure each service has at the headquarters level. The Army has a single office at the Pentagon that oversees logistics policies and programs and funnels information down to the rest of the service. It’s the biggest service, so this centralized staff helps us get to a collective Army plan or solution. But Marine Corps Headquarters has two separate entities that we work with. With that service, you could probably just get a few folks together in the room to outline and agree on a way forward. The Air Force and Navy also have unique structures.
How do we ensure the issues we’re working on are important to military customers?
Each service has a performance based agreement with DLA. This is where prioritization takes place and we agree on what’s most important to our customers. We also define metrics with quantifiable data points that we use to measure our performance against the services’ requirements, so the agreement is more than just a piece of paper or memorandum of agreement. These PBAs are strategically driven, meaning they capture things from a service-headquarters level rather than tactical level. They come up for review every three years, but we’re constantly refining them.
These PBAs don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach because the services each have separate priorities. Some of the elements might be similar, but in the Army’s case, for example, they’ve specifically told us there are 104 readiness drivers they want us to focus on. These are critical repair parts the Army wants us to track through the DLA Service Readiness Dashboard to make sure we have enough stock on hand when needed. Likewise, the other services have mission-specific supply needs that we prioritize and track.
How is the division using tools like the DLA Service Readiness Dashboard to adapt to an environment of fewer people?
Reducing staff as we’re required by Defense Department manpower reductions will make us look differently at how we serve customers in the future. Warfighters like having DLA representatives sitting right next to them where they’re operating. Without doing away with CSRs, we may need to cut back. Rather than being as far forward as we’re used to being, we’ll leverage technology. Tools like the new DLA Service Readiness Dashboard give us quick visibility of trends that may be keeping readiness down. Our NAM teams are using this data to help prioritize, with input from the customer, what it is we focus on. We’re trying to pinpoint those things that are most essential, where we can have the largest impact earlier and within the given resources.
That said, I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t get away from face-to-face communication. There’s a lot of value in going over to Army Materiel Command or the Air Force’s logistics centers and meeting people because that’s how you build relationships. So while we’ll be strengthening the virtual relationships we have with customers, we won’t completely do away with face-to-face interaction like what we have at annual service-DLA days, for example.
How does DLA make sure warfighters know how to do business with the agency?
For our tactical customers who are out there working on repairs or ordering supplies for their units, we have the Customer Interaction Center, a 24/7 hotline in Battle Creek, Michigan, where agents are available to answer questions ranging from the status of an order to stock availability. It’s also a good place to get help if DLA systems are down and a customer needs to get a requisition in quickly.
Additionally, we have a training team in DLA Logistics Operations
with instructors who go out and give unit training on FedMall
, DLA’s online ordering system, and other tools customers can use to track orders or get information on National Stock Numbers. Our customer and warfighter support representatives are also known to provide spontaneous training when they recognize a customer needs some help learning to use our systems. They’ll even provide specialized training if a unit is about to head out on deployment so they know what DLA resources are available in the region they’re heading to as well as how to get in contact with the appropriate people at DLA’s major subordinate commands who are experts in commodities like food and fuel. Lastly, DLA offers academic courses at National Defense University and service leadership schools like the Army War College.
DLA was created to manage supplies for all the services. From spare parts to property disposal, we’re here to support America’s men and women in uniform, and we have a reputation for going the extra mile to meet warfighters’ needs. Whether we’re working with service members at the strategic or tactical level, the Military Service Support Division has a big role in facilitating success.