Fort Belvoir, Virginia –
eople are what Mae DeVincentis misses most about the Defense Logistics Agency.
“When you spend 37 years working at an organization, you form a lot of relationships. Being with people that you care about, day in and day out, sharing all the things that go on whether they’re good or bad … you miss that,” the former DLA vice director said.
DeVincentis will return to the agency July 14 to be inducted into the DLA Hall of Fame three years after her retirement. She is widely known for having a hand in several of DLA’s triumphs: first electronic order, first pharmaceutical prime vendor and first enterprisewide business system. Those who’ve worked with or for her say her success is a result of her dedication to people.
“You should see how DLA Troop Support and DLA Information Operations personnel light up when Mae enters a room … hugging, kissing, tears … the whole show,” said DLA Vice Director Ted Case, who followed DeVincentis’ footsteps as director of DLA Information Operations and later as DLA vice director.
The Philadelphia native denies that she’s different, special or better.
“There are so many people who belong in our hall of fame. I just happened to reach a level in the agency where I got noticed, but there are so many hard-working people who don’t get the notoriety they deserve,” she said.
DeVincentis prefers to move the spotlight from her career to the DLA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization not affiliated with the Department of Defense that she founded upon her retirement in February 2012. She created the foundation to help fund scholarships for children of DLA employees, which it has done two years in a row. Her next steps are to expand the foundation and make it more accessible to DLA employees who either don’t know about it or fear they’re not allowed to participate.
“The intent is to provide programs that are of value to the workforce, such as retirement preparation planning. The charter was written in a way that we can continue to build and add programs as we go,” she added.
DeVincentis began her 37-year career with DLA in 1975 as a GS-2 clerk, typing shipping labels and other documents for what was then the Defense Personnel Support Center Clothing Factory. She described it as “mind-numbing work,” but working for the federal government gave her the stability she needed to raise her daughter when, years later, she wound up a single mom. At night, she attended classes at Temple University and eventually earned a master’s degree in business administration. Her studies propelled her toward more challenging work, and she gradually moved into contracting as a GS-5/7/9.
DeVincentis’ foray into the world of information technology occurred in the early 1980s, when she joined the team responsible for creating the Defense Integrated Subsistence Management System. Used by the entire Defense Department, DISMS allowed business transactions that once took days and even months to occur in minutes.
Later, as a buyer working for the medical directorate in the 1990s, DeVincentis led the contracting effort to establish DLA’s first pharmaceutical prime vendor, which she called one of the major highlights of her work in Philadelphia.
“We began to realize that stock wasn’t moving out of the depots, that we were losing business. Lo and behold, we eventually learned that the Veterans Administration had come up with this innovative approach to buying commercial items called prime vendor, and they had marketed it to all of our customers,” she said.
She and coworkers found copies of the VA’s solicitations and figured out their business model. Within a couple months, DLA’s first solicitation for its own enhanced version of a pharmaceutical prime vendor hit the streets. The agency eventually got its customers back, but “it was a significant emotional event for those of us working in the medical directorate back then to be on the brink of losing all our business,” DeVincentis added.
In 1998, DeVincentis was invited to DLA Headquarters on a temporary assignment as the executive director of IT for the Defense Logistics Support Command, then a major DLA subordinate command. During that time, she discovered a significant amount of down time for DLA’s legacy business system, the Standard Automated Material Management System. But when she called field activities to see how their daily operations were impacted by the disruption, she was alarmed to learn it barely fazed them.
“All the field activities had built their own systems to circumvent SAMMS, and when it would finally come back up again, they would just dump all the transactions at once,” she said. “It highlighted the fact that there wasn’t a single system that everyone relied on.”
Then came concerns surrounding the Y2K bug, which threatened to shut down computers dependent on a two-digit format to represent years, and assessments of DLA’s IT systems were grim.
“We were told our systems were in such poor shape that we might not even see them rise again the morning after,” she said.
DeVincentis’ mission became clear: build a common IT architecture that merged multiple business functions and information stores and enabled the workforce to provide better, faster support. This mission was eventually called Business Systems Modernization. The outcome, now known as DLA’s Enterprise Business System, was what many regard as DoD’s most successful enterprise resource planning system. It combines all of the agency’s planning, procurement, order fulfillment and financial functions, and interfaces closely with DLA’s Distribution Standard System.
During the early stages of BSM development, DeVincentis’ temporary assignment as executive director of DLSC turned into her first permanent senior executive role, and she eventually became the first agency program executive officer and deputy director of DLA Information Operations.
She then served as DLA’s chief information officer and director of DLA Information Operations from April 2001 until January 2010, when she was named director of DLA Logistics Operations. There, she oversaw supply operations in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as the agency’s extensive relief efforts following the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti.
In August 2010, former DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson asked DeVincentis to step into the agency’s number-two position as DLA vice director. It meant postponing her retirement plans, but was worth it, she said.
Even though she’s retired, DeVincentis said there’s always time in her schedule for the agency.
“DLA is still a very important time of my day, my week, my month. It’s still on my list of priorities,” she added.
Note: This is the third of five features on former DLA team members being inducted into the agency’s Hall of Fame in a July 14 ceremony.