Cherry Hill, New Jersey –
While hundreds of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Clothing and Textiles employees, industry reps and customers sat for big screen presentations in a hotel’s grand ballroom, there were also meaningful face-to-face sidebar conversations taking place in the hallways.
The supply chain hosted more than 260 vendors and 40 customers for the Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry in Cherry Hill, New Jersey June 16.
Army Maj. Eric Mendoza, a program manager for individual soldier equipment, said he spent more time meeting with vendors than attending presentations.
“We had a big issue that came up,” Mendoza said. “We were able to talk to the right people here and resolve it right away.”
Army Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro, DLA Troop Support commander, said the JAPBI is the “intersection” of DLA, industry and the military services.
“We have everyone here: the cut and sew folks, manufacturers, customers en masse,” he said. “It’s rare to have all of us in a room for a couple days in this forum.”
Shapiro highlighted several actions C&T has taken since the last year’s JAPBI. Based on industry feedback, C&T stopped conducting reverse auctions since the supply chain’s vendors often work within tight profit margins.
In response to industry concerns about potential costs due to increases in minimum wages and the Affordable Care Act, there’s now an internal DLA Troop Support policy that enables vendors to apply for relief from their contractual obligations if they’re suffering financial hardship.
The vendor has to open its books to prove hardship due to increased minimum wages and the ACA and ensure continued contractual support in order to to re-compete for other contracts without penalty, Shapiro said.
Shapiro also said that a C&T employee will soon be located in Kabul to work foreign military sales with the U.S. Army Assistance Command, which serves 140 allies, friendly countries and multinational organizations with material, training, education and other services.
Foreign military sales, such as providing uniforms to the Afghan army and police forces, “is something that’s here to stay for the foreseeable future,” Shapiro said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch, DLA director, also addressed the JAPBI audience and met separately with vendors and representatives from six trade associations during a C&T Captains of Industry meeting.
He reminded attendees that sequestration remains the law.
“We’ll be better prepared if we go down that path again,” Busch said. “In turn, we’ll communicate to you as clearly as possible about what’s going on with our business."
He said that the C&T industry has a role in supporting the nuclear enterprise, one of his priorities.
“There are thousands and thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines [in U.S. Strategic Command] that count on your products,” Busch said. “And some of the mission sets that these young Americans are supporting are creating requirements for products sourced by this supply chain. A good example of that is the Model Defender program for the Air Force Global Strike Command.”
Earlier this year, C&T and the Construction and Equipment supply chain worked with industry partners to quickly provide uniforms and gear for the Air Force’s Model Defender program.
During the JAPBI’s first day, representatives from each of the military services and the Coast Guard presented projects they’re working on and what they’d like to work on, despite limited budgets.
The Navy is working with Troop Support on more than 20 uniform projects, including new headgear that can be worn by males and females and fitness suits.
The Marine Corps wants to buy combat ski systems and is “always looking to lighten the load for their foot mobile force,” said Marine Col. Daryl Crane, product manager for infantry combat equipment.
Each of C&T’s supply chains briefed their fiscal 2014 sales, ongoing projects and open procurements that vendors can compete for during the second day.
But for many JAPBI attendees, the opportunities for face-to-face interaction with those they often talk to on the phone or through email was the greatest value.
“I have a lot of notes,” said Greg Graves, from Massif, a fire-resistant clothing maker. “But it makes for a great trip to be able to meet directly with program managers and customers to find out what issues they have.”