FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
Equipping the new service and combatant command dedicated to protecting U.S. and allied interests in space will require the Defense Logistics Agency to be flexible and open to change, the agency’s liaison to those organizations said.
“We’re going to have to continue to be very flexible because our normal processes, the things we do on a day-to-day basis for other combatant commands and services, may be totally different from the ways we’ll need to support space forces,” said Tony Duren, DLA Nuclear Enterprise Support Office LNO to U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
SPACECOM was created in August and the Space Force in December, but Duren has supported the Defense Department’s space enterprise since 2017 through the now-defunct Air Force Space Command, which was redesignated as the Space Force. He explains the difference between the two new organizations in simple terms. Space Command is a combatant command that integrates space capabilities from all the services. It develops doctrine, tactics and procedures while Space Force organizes, trains, and equips forces to protect and operate in space.
Duren is already familiar with the eight categories of space systems that DLA supports through his work with the Space and Missile Center. They range from satellite controls and GPS to missile warning sensors, for which DLA had an overall 97.2% material availability rate at interview time. He attributes the high number to ongoing collaboration with program managers and his ability to connect with supply chain experts at DLA Aviation, DLA Troop Support, DLA Land and Maritime and other DLA activities. As an LNO who participates in readiness meetings and has a daily presence, he’s aware of issues and can bypass standard customer service options like the 24/7 Customer Interaction Center, he said.
SPACECOM officials recently discovered DLA’s value when searching for solutions to store an influx of communications equipment. The command had 32 pallets of supplies and discovered the Conex containers they needed for storage were on back order and would take 90-180 days to arrive. With a little research and a single phone call, Duren located two available Conex containers at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“It worked out great because SPACECOM got the assets they needed, it was well within the time they needed them and they were loaned at no charge to the customer,” he said.
His close relationship with four other DLA LNOs in the region supporting customers like U.S. Northern Command and the Army Field Support Battalion at Fort Carson, Colorado, made the support possible.
“We get together and talk about issues or problems, and we share our networks of people and resources because sometimes that enables us to support our customers faster than creating new requirements or getting in touch with someone at a higher level to work things out,” Duren added.
As an Air Force veteran with over 20 years in logistics management and acquisition, he can help guide SPACECOM and Space Force in logistics preparations for future operations. In January, he provided around-the-clock support during SPACECOM’s inaugural training exercise, Global Lightning 2020. Based on his participation in other combatant command exercises, he suggested the command test
“For example, I told them to test a unit on losing five critical assets to see how they get them back in inventory. That does two things. No. 1, it tests the unit to see if they know proper procedures for getting parts during emergencies and contingencies. And No. 2, it tests DLA’s ability to quickly meet customers’ needs,” he said.
Even being familiar with DOD’s Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Guidance enables Duren to advise Space Force and SPACECOM on proper accountability. When he discovered troops at an undisclosed location were removing spare parts for radar systems from their boxes to keep them running and software updated, Duren informed them it was a policy violation. The troops were grateful for his guidance on how to perform such practices legally.
“They just weren’t informed, but because of my long experience in supply, I knew what steps they needed to take to comply with the FIAR. Anything related with audit readiness is a pretty big deal right now,” he said.
Amy Sabol, a logistics specialist for the Air Force’s Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division that falls under Space Force, said Duren is a considered an important member of her team.
“He’s been vital to us because when we have an issue and no idea how to proceed, he always knows the answers and if he doesn’t he reaches out to someone who does,” she said, adding that Duren smoothed the turn-in process of excess property for five radar sites her division supports. He provided instructions and forms required by DLA Disposition Services and also helped them understand Air Force instructions for property turn-ins that he knew from his experience on active duty.
As Space Force officials refine requirements, DLA Troop Support is working with them and the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, which supports all branches of service, to design uniforms as well as unit flags and other insignia. It has already completed the SPACECOM unit flag and DLA Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams presented a hand-stitched version to SPACECOM Commander Air Force Gen. John Raymond, also the Space Force’s chief of space operations, in January.
DLA will have to find a way to keep logistics costs low despite the small size of Space Force, especially as service-unique uniforms are designed, Duran said, echoing Williams’ comments. Only about 16,000 people will make up the organization, and that includes military members, civilians and contractors.
“When you have a number that low, the cost of uniforms is naturally going to be higher. It’s up to us to figure how to keep that cost manageable while meeting our customer needs, but I know that DLA stands ready to meet this challenge head on,” he said.