FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
The Defense Logistics Agency is upping its game in how it understands industry and leverages data to improve processes, the DLA vice director told leaders of 13 industry associations in a May 5 webinar that also focused on 2020 Supplier Survey results and demand projections.
“We’re gearing ourselves toward a point where we’re a much better partner and customer of the people you represent as we make our best attempt at transforming global logistics,” Brad Bunn said while summarizing the agency’s newly released 2021-2026 Strategic Plan.
He highlighted the plan’s five lines of effort and detailed objectives in the fourth, which focuses on modernizing acquisition and supply chain management. The agency expects to develop better market intelligence capabilities while identifying and managing supply chains risks. It will also focus on improving post-award processes that some businesses find challenging.
Bunn added that industry representatives can help DLA efforts to adopt new innovations as it meets increasing threats and evolving needs of warfighters and federal agencies.
“Speed and scale matter, especially in an institution like the U.S. Department of Defense and with growing requirements from our whole-of-government partners. And we certainly consider you all great partners and enablers in our ability to meet our mission,” he said.
George Atwood, DLA’s executive director of logistics, policy and strategic programs, updated industry representatives on service demand patterns for the rest of fiscal 2021. The agency estimates the value of its awards to industry for non-energy supplies to be around $25.7 billion compared to $26.3 in fiscal 2020 and $27.2 in fiscal 2019.
“DLA awards to industry for the hardware supply chains are more likely to be on the lower end of the range while awards for DLA Troop Support supply chains like clothing and textiles, construction and equipment, medical and subsistence are likely to be on the higher end of the range,” he said.
DLA Ombudsman Tim Stark added that results of the latest Supplier Survey are encouraging. The survey is in its second iteration and measures suppliers’ experience doing business with DLA during contract solicitation and post-award processes. Over 8,100 suppliers were invited to complete the anonymous survey and the response rate was 34%. Participants included small businesses at 81%; large businesses, 16% and non-profits, 3%.
The survey included 17 factors in four categories: communications, effectiveness, supplier relationships, and growth and profit potential. Respondents rated DLA highest in trustworthiness with the lowest scores being in timely resolution and innovation, both of which still received higher ratings than in the 2018 survey. Growth and profit potential, which measures how suppliers view business opportunities with the agency, is the only category in which DLA saw no improvements. Stark said the slight dip was probably due to funding challenges and the pandemic.
Similar demographics between the 2018 and 2020 surveys allows for close comparison, Stark added, and the results will be used to drive improvements similar to those following the previous survey. DLA Aviation invested more resources in post-award reporting, for example, and DLA Energy recently debuted an industry newsletter that features upcoming procurement opportunities and demand planning information.
Industry representatives like retired Army Maj. Gen. Jim Boozer, chief of staff for the National Defense Industrial Association, and retired Navy Vice Adm. William Brown, president of the National Defense Transportation Association, expressed desires to work with DLA in supporting equipment retrogrades in light of the drawdown in Afghanistan. DLA Logistics Operations Deputy Director Kristin French said the agency is still getting clarifications and details of the drawdown from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Boozer also congratulated DLA for what he considered high marks in the Supplier Survey on communications and effectiveness and added that he thinks the agency’s new Strategic Plan is “spot on.”
“I think it’s exactly what you all should be doing and the direction you should be headed in,” he said.
Bunn stressed that events such as the webinar and reoccurring industry days helps strengthen supplier relationships and ensure a diverse industrial base.
“We believe it’s important to maintain open dialogue and communications with our industry partners, especially new partners that continue to come up as we expand our business,” he said.
Two organizations new to DLA’s webinar for industry association leaders include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Space Force Association. National Industries for the Blind, Aerospace Industries Association, and the Coalition for Government Procurement are among DLA’s more seasoned participants.
Upcoming industry events include DLA Aviation Suppler Days June 8-9, DLA Distribution Industry Day June 9, a DLA Land and Maritime Industry Roundtable Aug. 24 and a Demand Forecast Webinar for industry association leaders tentatively scheduled for October 2021.