News | June 15, 2020

Former staffer earns honors at top level school

By Tim Hoyle

Before he became a distinguished graduate at the National Defense University, Don Phillips distinguished himself as a leader at the Defense Logistics Agency.

Phillips was among the June 2020 graduates of NDU’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy (formerly known as the Industrial College of the Armed Forces) who began their studies last August. Like his classmates he will receive a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy. Phillips chose a concentration in long term strategy for his studies, but he also had two special projects.

“My ‘major’ concentrated on using the Great Power Competition comparative assessment,” Phillips said. “My team looked for ways to ensure competitive advantage against our potential adversaries.”  

The team researched and developed recommendations on how to work with America’s allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region to leverage their industrial base to mutual advantage. Phillips said the plan is to share those recommendations with the staff at United States Indo-Pacific Command. The second project was an industry study on munitions where Phillips was part of a team of 14 U.S. and international students, military and civilians. The team made a detailed study of the U.S. munitions industrial base, assessed its strengths and vulnerabilities and briefed its recommendations to a distinguished visitor panel at the end of the school year.

The Pennsylvania native came to DLA after his 2010 Army retirement. Phillips put his soldiering to use in DLA Disposition Services’ Operations and Customer Support Divisions, where he became the division chief for contingency planning and expeditionary operations. As chief he coordinated expeditionary deployments and directed contingency planning for DLA Disposition Services’ support to exercises and operations. Phillips shared in those deployments when he served as site chief in Bagram in 2012, providing disposal operations for north and central Afghanistan.

Phillips later became director for DLA Installation Management at Battle Creek, Michigan, overseeing safety and occupational health, security and emergency services, morale, welfare and recreation and installation support services for 1,200 employees of DLA organizations within the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center. His team also provided or coordinated similar support for DLA Disposition Services at over 100 sites worldwide.

Phillips credits his success at NDU with experience gained from his time in both DLA Disposition Services and DLA Installation Management. He noted that DLA, as a joint organization, works with every service and many federal agencies and departments.

“That ‘whole of government’ mentality is, I think, essential for success both at the Eisenhower School and in daily defense-related operations,” Phillips said. “Understanding the criticality of effective coordination with private industry and the uniformed services at the regional and national level began with my time in … Battle Creek.”

Phillips’ prior duties helped him share relevant experiences with his peers. He also credits “the talented people of DLA Disposition Services and Installation Management” for proving to him that "human capital truly is the most important resource in national security and must be considered as such in planning, funding and developing successful organizations.”

Phillips contributed his capital to the community and volunteered to help escort veterans on an “Honor Flight” from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to see war memorials in Washington, D.C. He also pitched in with other Federal Center volunteers during the local Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family campaigns. During the last campaign before his NDU studies, he said it was “an honor to serve the Battle Creek community.”

Phillip’s previous academic studies include earning bachelor’s degrees in zoology and history from Duke University and a master’s in military arts and sciences from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. With his new diploma in hand, Phillips will continue to serve DLA Installation Management at the agency’s Fort Belvoir, Virginia, headquarters as the integration and projects officer. He will serve as a supervisory project officer on special projects that include wide-ranging review initiatives, complex studies spanning finances and operations, human capital, efficiency plus long-and short term planning requirements, project proposals and mission expansion. His staff will comprise experts in developing policy and interpreting complex regulations and laws.

Billie Sue Goff, DLA Installation Management’s deputy director for policy said the job will exercise Phillips’ expertise and knowledge of quality of life, military community and components and aspects as they relate to policy and program development, program assessment and evaluation procedures. He will also use his skills to justify, defend, negotiate or settle matters, employing his newly acquired skills in long-term strategy.

“The position requires a deep and broad mastery of knowledge of support programs to enable DLA HQ staff and major subordinate commands to provide logistics support to the warfighter, Defense Department components, and other customers,” Goff said.

Phillips currently plans to return briefly to Michigan to prepare for the move to Fort Belvoir. He also took time to encourage others to be life-long learners and use the Executive Development Program to “go for it.”  

”It's never too early -- or late -- to develop yourself,” Phillips said. “With the changes being brought on … an experience like the "Ike" school offers the ability to learn from excellent faculty, share and grow with talented peers and immerse yourself in addressing the challenges of tomorrow.”

The June 11 virtual commencement was captured with remarks from Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It can be viewed online from the NDU site.