DLA Aviation meets with strategic suppliers to discuss common concerns

By Bonnie Koenig DLA Aviation Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Aviation senior leaders met with their strategic suppliers May 6 at the 21st Senior Executive Partnership Roundtable in Richmond, Virginia. Topics focused on challenges faced in today’s budgetary environment, Better Buying Power and commercial pricing.

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day set the stage for the daylong event by emphasizing the DLA director’s five strategic goals: warfighter first – make promises and keep them; strategic engagement – better outcomes through teamwork; financial stewardship – affordable solutions and continued accountability; process excellence – always improving; and people and culture – value team members.

“It’s not about you serving us, it’s about us [together] serving the warfighter,” he said.

Day said he is dedicated to getting customers what they need and getting it right, but that requires a good relationship with suppliers. He reviewed Aviation’s annual operating plan, the current budget environment and the extended life span of older aircraft. He also spoke about changing Aviation’s relationships to effectively use its capabilities, sharing cost analysis, creating innovative acquisition strategies and tying profitability to outcomes.

DLA Aviation Deputy Director Charlie Lilli said the field activity is looking for ways to communicate its business and initiatives.

“We are not only talking about driving parts anymore; we are also talking about driving solutions and looking for innovative contractual agreements to help solve those challenges,” he said.

Roundtable topics included weapon systems support challenges and an aviation operations overview, supplier perspectives, government perspective on licensing issues, managing supply chains, contractor recognition programs, and a commercial pricing update.

Julie Praiss, Boeing’s vice president for tactical aircraft and weapons support, talked about some of her company’s challenges, including reduced military spending, high costs and limited acquisition choices worldwide, balancing affordability and readiness, aging fleets, parts obsolescence, infrastructure, and workforce limitations.

Praiss said Boeing is developing affordable solutions, using proven business models, incentivizing long-term contracts, and continuing collaborations and partnerships with the government.

During commercial pricing updates, David Sylvester, a supervisory procurement analyst with DLA Aviation’s Procurement Process Support Directorate, said if government contracting officers can’t get what they need through price analysis, sales data, evaluation of market prices and catalog discounts, they need to turn to suppliers to get data.  He said those officers are not trying to be burdensome, but they have a responsibility to be good stewards of government funds and are conforming to federal acquisition regulations to get the best price.

Tom Walker, director of commercial contract cost and pricing team for the Defense Contract Management Agency, spoke about the commercial pricing process. He said commercial pricing relates to what an item generally used by the general public is sold for. DCMA looks for price reasonableness, mission capability, purpose and function. He added his agency conducts market research, evaluates manufacturing processes, compares products and documents the results.

The presentations were followed with a briefing and panel discussions focusing on Better Buying Power 3.0.

“The idea for today’s panel is for everyone in the room to gain a better sense of what BBP is and gather ideas for the way ahead,” Lilli said. “DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch is interested in infusing our language and culture in engaging our ideas in Better Buying Power to a greater extent than ever before.”

“Better buying power encompasses the entire acquisition process, and we should apply it where it makes sense,” said panel member Lynn Donnelly, deputy director of DLA Aviation’s Procurement Process Support Directorate.

Some of the focus areas for continued process improvement in relation to BBP are affordability, controlling life cycle costs, incentivizing productivity and innovations in industry and government, eliminating unproductive processes and bureaucracy, promoting competition, and improving professionalism through training, education and experience within the workforce. 

Donnelly also shared tactics for promoting improvements, like continued market research, cost and business case analysis, aggressive and informed negotiations, contract types, strategies and incentives, and leveraging existing capabilities and best practices for customers, industry, and the government.

Priass, who was on the BBP panel, discussed items in BBP 3.0 that drew her attention, achieving affordable programs, developing performance-based metrics, implementing better performance and savings for DLA, strengthening partnerships, and integrating joint acquisitions.

“This is a true partnership. We have come a long way [as partners], and we have a long way to go,” she said.

Day said BBP 3.0 is the new process to improve buying power, drive innovations, support legacy weapons systems and find new solutions to old problems.

“You are a big part of CPI by helping us make processes better, going into depots and helping set up improvements in a commercially driven way,” he said.

Day said that translates into delivering on time, every time.

“We are solutions driven and want our customers to come to us first,” he said. “We are the face to the customer, and we are who they turn to for solutions.”

Naval Supply Systems Command’s Capt. Matt Ott delivered a presentation on weapon systems support challenges and an aviation operations overview. He said industry can help through rewarding innovation. Ott emphasized the importance of speedy delivery and the problems with backorder hold issues.

“Empower the workforce, reduce costs, emphasize reliability and support our products, ” he said.

Patrick Finegan, a supply relationship management supervisor with Aviation’s Strategic Acquisition Program Directorate and the event’s facilitator, he wanted the event to stimulate open communication between attendees and build a better understanding of mutual issues.

Doug Wells, a supply relationship manager, DLA Aviation Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate, said this year’s event was different than in previous years. He said the industry partners shared a lot more about their challenges.

“Now it’s not only DLA Aviation trying to support our aging aircraft. … Our industry partners are also supporting aging aircraft and dealing with obsolete parts issues as well,” Wells said. “DLA Aviation has a more acute focus on budgetary constraints than ever before. … Every decision has a budgetary component to it.”

Finegan said the event energized discussions on how DLA Aviation develops win-win solutions that improve warfighter support and manage cost.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles that DLA will highlight on BBP 3.0 called "Better Buying Power in Focus."