FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Anticipating warfighters’ needs as they counter evolving threats from adversaries is among the Defense Logistics Agency’s most pressing challenges, the new executive director of operations and sustainment said.
“We have to be prepared to take whatever actions are needed to support warfighters, and that includes maintaining the velocity of sustainment for all classes of supply and being able to pivot and be flexible in a changing environment,” Patrick Kelleher said.
The former Marine spent the past year overseeing the production and distribution of COVID-19 supplies, test kits and vaccines for the Department of Health and Human Services. Being part of the federal government’s pandemic response gave him opportunities to conduct interagency coordination at top levels and learn about DLA’s capabilities.
“It reaffirmed to me the responsiveness of DLA, particularly in the contracting area,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily have anticipated that DLA would play such a large role, but certainly it was the go-to organization when we absolutely had to get things done in a very tight timeline.”
Two areas of DLA support that Kelleher said impressed him most were the agency’s flexibility in contracting for test kits as well as the first international vaccine donation, which went to South Korea.
Kelleher recognizes federal agencies’ growing desires to leverage DLA’s expertise.
“Coming from HHS and being here now, I think there’s absolutely a place for that, but we must find the right balance for supporting the whole of government without detracting from our No. 1 priority, which is support to the warfighter,” he said.
DLA employees are already working to fine-tune the balance, he added, and he plans to embrace their institutional knowledge while leading his staff through future initiatives and change.
As a new member of the Senior Executive Service – his induction ceremony is scheduled for May 20 – Kelleher described his leadership style as collaborative.
"There are a lot of smart people here who can come up with a lot of great ideas, and I want to capitalize on their diversity and expertise, letting the best ideas percolate to the top,” he said.
Sharing ideas helps others think from different perspectives and create optimal solutions that a single person wouldn’t ordinarily create alone, he added.
Kelleher is an experienced leader and deployed eight times in his Marine Corps career. He served as a battalion commander during two of his three tours in Iraq. He was also the first Marine to deploy on a Disaster Assistance Response Team from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance when it went to Uzbekistan to support disaster relief efforts there.
Joining the military was the only thing Kelleher ever wanted to do growing up.
“I never wanted to do anything else,” he said. “Never.”
His dad served in the Army before he was born, and that’s the service he initially wanted to join when he applied for ROTC scholarships with the Army and Marine Corps.
“I was told Marine scholarships were very difficult to get,” he said.
But Kelleher was selected from 500 Connecticut applicants for one of two Marine Corps scholarships.
He described his journey to SES as one with lots of help and as a natural outgrowth of his military service.
“Seeking additional responsibilities – the Marine Corps builds that into you from Day One,” he said. “I’ve always felt that if I can contribute in positions of increased responsibilities, I would at least like to try.”
Kelleher added that he looks forward to leading a team that already inpsires him.
“If you’re going to be a senior Department of Defense logistician, there’s no better place to be than here providing combat logistics support,” he said.