DLA puts F-35 parts close to source of repair at military industrial facilities

By Beth Reece

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Time-tested warehousing processes and customer relationships are enabling the Defense Logistics Agency to improve readiness and sustainment of the F-35 joint strike fighter. 

DLA entered initial operating capability as provider of North American regional warehousing Jan. 1 and will spend 2020 transferring government-owned F-35 parts from Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney to DLA Distribution facilities co-located with six air logistics and fleet readiness centers.

The agency was selected last January by the Defense Department’s F-35 Joint Program Office to provide storage and management support of F-35 spare parts and kits in the United States and Canada, as well as global transportation and distribution in partnership with U.S. Transportation Command. 

Moving inventory to DLA facilities puts parts closer to the source of repair at ALCs and FRCs where critical weapons systems are repaired and maintained, said Joe Saffron, business development specialist for DLA Distribution.

“There’s a great deal of comfort knowing inventory is right down the street versus, in the case of FRC Southwest, outside of the base over 15 miles away. Getting a delivery truck through the gate is one thing, but there you’re also competing with all the traffic going over the bridge to Coronado Island,” he said.
 
The change also eliminates duplicate efforts between DoD and industry and takes advantage of routine deliveries between DLA warehouses and military maintenance facilities.

“We have the ability to refine our already existing delivery schedules, meshing them closely with customers’ production schedules so they get every minute possible of wrench-turning time out of their operations. And that improves readiness,” Saffron added.

Auditability is expected to be another key outcome of the effort. An April 2019 Government Accountability Office report indicated that government property associated with the F-35 was not being adequately tracked in a government system, as information resides in business management systems owned and operated by Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney. 

“At initial operating capability, we’ll continue to use existing contractor systems to manage material and gain visibility. But in the future, at full operating capability, our intention is to migrate inventory data into DLA systems so we have an accountable property system of record,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, director of DLA Logistics Operations’ Sustainment Solutions Division.

Data transfer will be a conditions-based transfer and is scheduled for 2021, Davis said. 

DLA’s F-35 support is an important first step in DoD organic supply chain execution for the weapons system, added Joe Faris, business development director for DLA Distribution.

“Right now we’re focused on ensuring this program can benefit from our mature supply chain processes. This is setting us on the road to sustainment for the program over the next 50 years,” he said. 
 
Inventory transfer 

Transfer of inventory has already begun at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where DLA and TRANSCOM conducted proof of principle demonstrations in 2019 to test warehousing and transportation processes. Original demonstration requirements called for DLA to receive, store and issue two engines, but distribution process workers handled over 40 engine components from Pratt & Whitney and units seeking retrograde processing for unserviceable components.

The Oklahoma ALC will accept about 50,000 new receipts in the next few months. Existing DLA facilities will be used at the Oklahoma and Ogden ALCs. Employees have developed racking systems and other storage solutions to accommodate the new material. They’re also receiving classroom training on how to use Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney systems until data transfer is possible. 

DLA and TRANSCOM will measure and report its performance to the JPO using pre-set metrics such as issue response time, similar to the way the agency measures itself through service agreements with the military, Davis added.

“It’s important to note that we’re not doing this with blinders on. There’s work to be done and we continue growing our relationships so our customers have confidence their needs will be met as we move forward,” he said.

Those partners include companies selected to manage warehouse operations in Europe and Indo-Pacific, with whom DLA is collaborating as they become operational to share material across regions in the global spares inventory pool. The goal is to provide reliable, scalable support to the F-35 program, which includes seven partner nations and five Foreign Military Sales countries. 

Davis underscored DLA’s ability to deliver effective, reliable F-35 support while reducing costs and expanding supply chain transparency.

“We have an existing supply chain that’s proven and we’ve demonstrated the ability to provide wartime support using that supply chain,” he said. “It makes sense to use that tested capability to support a weapons system that’s critical to our national defense strategy as opposed to being reliant on a supply chain that hasn’t been tested and could potentially add complexities.”

Over 490 F-35s were delivered to U.S. and international customers by Jan. 2.