News | Nov. 23, 2021

Senior leader conference focuses on supply chain priorities and future opportunities

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Senior leaders from across Defense Logistics Agency Aviation discussed the agency’s fiscal 2022 operational setting and its impact on the aviation supply chain when they met in Richmond, Virginia, Nov. 16-17.

The conference theme “FY22 Unprecedented Times and Extraordinary Opportunities” led to three takeaways, with champions assigned to delve deeper into the topics and report back at a future date.

-Can we sustain current material availability going forward?
-Should we focus more effort on industrial support?
-What do we want the future of work to look like?

The battle of the future is going to be much different than those of the past twenty years or so, Sanford said as he discussed defeating or deterring peer fights with other countries and questioned how we prepare our warfighters for them. “The next fight is going to be fast, short and violent,” he said.

“Our warfighters are going to deploy right away, with what they have, and we need to buy the right things for readiness,” said Sanford.  “Service priority changes happen within our buying timelines and we need to remain agile and responsive.”

DLA Vice Director Brad Bunn shared the strategic environment as he sees it from the DLA Headquarters level, including daily relationship building and interactions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, military services and industrial associations.

Bunn said that most innovation doesn’t come from the headquarters level. He is looking to organizations, like DLA Aviation, on the grass-roots level, to come up with non-traditional solutions to issues.

“Look for solutions [in your organization], start by boiling your pond and not the ocean,” he said, adding that budget uncertainty will continue until a budget is passed and customers may make different decisions based on three-month or two-year budgets.

Bunn and the audience touched on many topics to include digital business transformation challenges and what the future of work looks like post-pandemic.

He said headquarters doesn’t have the answers yet; but urged leaders to start thinking about what it might look like in their areas.  Charlie Lilli, DLA Aviation deputy commander asked leaders to come up with their future of work plans and be ready to defend their rational.

Navy Admiral Patrick Walsh, retired, who is a senior advisor with Oliver Wyman, a management consulting company in Los Angeles, and Air Force Lt. Gen. James Slife, commander, Air Force Special Operations Command out of Hulbert Field, Florida, provided their views on current and future environments.

Walsh, shared his thoughts on future peer competition, stating that the Indo-Pacific is the geo-strategic region for the 21st century and that economic growth depends on access to global sea lanes.  

He urged more collaboration between industry and Office of the Secretary of Defense in future defense planning scenarios, stressing the need for government to tell industry what works for them.

Slife spoke about measuring what is of importance and of value, decentralizing and placing stock in locations where it is needed, and organizing around missions instead of functions which cut across military job specialties.

Slife said it takes moral courage to highlight shortages. “When we highlight shortages, we will have to find a way to pay for them,” he said. “We tend to tie missions to resources in an implied linear relationship, when actually it is a triangle of mission, resources and risk.”

Aging weapons system platforms are still DLA Aviation’s core weapons systems and were the topic of conversations during customer operations, retail support and acquisitions briefs throughout the conference.

In 2018-2019, the agency built up inventory to build up readiness, then the pandemic hit and sales were low. The current funding constraints will continue and be tied to sales and the activity’s inventory levels will decrease. Leaders discussed existing and latent inventory, inventory in the pipeline for weapon systems that are being retired or downsized, lead-time confidence for contract delivery and if inventory risk could be taken.

Conference attendees agreed that change is coming, and processes and requirements need to be considered.  Attendees spoke about the need to increase collaborative support between agency supply chains, identify military services priorities, industry capabilities and what amount of risk DLA and the military services will take to buy the right parts in a constrained fiscal environment.

Sanford thanked attendees for their insights and said he looked forward to future reports from champions for the takeaway topics.

“We need to decide what we want to do, and then me, Charlie and Cathy will talk with other senior leaders to get buy in.” he said.