BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
The annual Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Strategic Leadership Summit kicked off Oct. 25 in Battle Creek, Michigan, as region directors from around the globe met at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center to share lessons from 2021 and plan for fiscal 2022.
This year’s event takes place in person and via videoconferencing, as area and site managers connect through Microsoft Teams to help limit the number of attendees and adhere to pandemic group size and social distancing restrictions still in place in Battle Creek.
Topics from Day 1 included a “State of the Command” organizational overview by Director Michael Cannon, and sessions focused on strategic initiatives, ethics, and reasonable accommodations surrounding COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The weeklong summit includes briefings from each geographic area of responsibility and covers general interest subjects like safety, finance, operations and employee performance measurement. The week will wrap with an awards ceremony recognizing the top performing field sites and outstanding individual and group contributions from the previous year.
Cannon kicked off the week with a command overview presentation and shared recent praise for the workforce he had received from DLA Director Vice Adm. Michelle Skubic.
“She’s very, very, very pleased with the work you all are doing,” Cannon said. “She loves how we take care of the warfighter and how we’re supporting the overall mission. You should pat yourselves on the back a little bit. You’re doing a great job, and [she] has noticed.”
He discussed aspects of workforce demographics like average employee age and DLA’s recruitment of teammates with disabilities. He said the command enjoys a strong organizational culture and discussed strategic ways to continually improve it, and he spent some time recapping the past year’s major challenges. Among those challenges was an accelerated Afghanistan departure executed after 16 continuous years of DLA military and civilian deployers supporting warfighters there.
“We very quickly went from four locations to zero,” Cannon said. “We did that extremely well. … Everything we were given by the services we properly disposed of.”
An effort that began in 2021 and will extend into the new fiscal year is Field Office Realignment. Through the FOR process, DLA Disposition Services closed most of its small field offices, repositioning dozens of billets to augment larger sites that needed additional personnel to decrease customer wait times and increase overall enterprise efficiency.
Cannon said that during FOR, the organization was forced to stringently evaluate the value versus cost of operating from dozens of its smallest locations. He said DLA was committed to finding “soft landings” for field office employees affected by closures who feel they cannot relocate to fill a job billet at another DLA Disposition Services site. He said there were “a few people” remaining who still needed help finding another appropriate area job, and the leadership team was committed to helping them.
“We’re close,” Cannon said.
Cannon briefed on some of the successes from fiscal 2021 and goals for the future, including the evolution of a support location in Qatar into a full-service site, securing better document translation services, and robust FY21 sales and reuse, transfer and donation metrics DLA Disposition Services reached despite the limitations of an ongoing pandemic. He also gave kudos to 58 workforce members who provided formal mentorship to others in the past year.
“Thank you for doing that,” Cannon said. “Please continue to coach and train.”
One way the organization will look to increase the effectiveness of the workforce is through foundational training, or the idea that new hires will receive standardized instruction when they begin, rather then relying solely on on-the-job training to learn the ins and outs of property disposal. Cannon said some of the property disposal jobs in DLA Disposition Services are unique and in all of DOD, very few individuals outside the command handle these types of roles, so it’s important that a strong educational track is developed for property disposal specialists.
An additional longer-term development Cannon mentioned was the development of Warehouse Management System, which is expected to replace DSS as the primary property management application in the future. He said there was much more to come on the topic, but assured attendees that they could expect big, positive changes from its development and fielding.
He said the jump in capability would be like that of smart phones over earlier flip phones.
“It is that much better,” Cannon said. “It’s going to be a wonderful tool.”
The senior leadership summit continues Oct. 26, when six of seven geographic regions will brief on the past year and what lies ahead for warfighter support in their area.