Energy commander emphasizes commercial supply chain at Defense Logistics conference

By Tanekwa Bournes DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark McLeod spoke at a training event during the 15th annual Defense Logistics conference Dec. 2.

The event brought together logisticians in industry and government, as well as U.S. and foreign military personnel to collaborate with one another on ways to maintain effectiveness.

McLeod, a guest speaker during day two of the event that focused on “ensuring the technical edge through defense logistics,” discussed integrating the commercial supply chain into operation.

“Unlike others in the business, we have to balance being effective and efficient,” McLeod said. “We’re looking for ways to leverage commercial entities to save.”

Last year’s war game was an example of using the commercial supply chain. During the exercise, locations and refineries in Japan, Korea, Guam and the Philippines were removed from operations, which presented a logistics challenge, added McLeod. This meant that operations were no longer dependent on Department of Defense infrastructure and capabilities; they were now dependent upon the global supply chain.

“The problem is not the amount of fuel in the world,” McLeod said. “The problem is being able to translate that fuel where you need it and when you need it from the strategic to the tactical assets that need it to perform their missions.”

He further explained that the scenario is about enablers, such as access to commercial vessels and tankers to be able to move the product.

In addition, it’s about relationships DoD must establish with commercial partners to be able to cap and trade in the system to be able to move product ubiquitously in the theater and around the world. Even as capabilities are lost, the product is still being brought in, McLeod said.

“But it exposes a whole bunch of weaknesses,” he added. “This idea that this fight mirrors World War II and how our long supply chains makes it difficult to support missions due to time and distance to locations, as well as makes them susceptible to our adversaries.”

DLA has proven over the years through reflagging of vessels and safe harboring at various locations that the organization can adapt with the commercial supply chain to address some of these issues, he added.

In the aviation industry, commercial specification Jet A jet fuel with additives is now an equivalent for military specification JP8 jet fuel for the U.S. military, McLeod said. This innovation is a result of refineries and suppliers producing large quantities of low-sulfate diesel and other bio products for profit.

“Similar to what we’ve seen in (DLA) Aviation, we want to leverage commercial infrastructure and commercial specification fuels,” he said. “Right now, DLA Energy has a study going on to see how we can go from a commercial-based maritime fuel, which is F76, to a low-sulfur ground-based fuel to ultimately satisfy your ground based and also your maritime operations.”

The added advantage is resiliency, McLeod said. Fuel will be cheaper due to buying product from big suppliers, which means savings on the front end and resiliency on the back end.

“The military needs to look at capacity and being efficient at the same time,” he said. “This comes when dwindling down infrastructure and spending money on other things such as enablers.”

“On behalf of DLA Energy, Business Executives for National Security is conducting a survey on our continental U.S. supply chain analysis,” McLeod said. “(It will) see where we can take reductions in infrastructure but make them up in velocity, and those are opportunities in commercial relationships to flourish and deepen.”

During Exercise Vigilant Shield, DLA Energy’s defense fuel support points on both coasts of North America were removed and the organization was still able to move fuel through its commercial supply chain relationships to support all ground and maritime operations.

“(Being) more effective and affordable is on the minds of warfighters and senior planners,” he said. “Our ability to execute is dependent upon things that we didn’t use to focus on because we were looking at other areas.”
 
During the question and answer portion of the event, McLeod spoke about the various testing being funded by the government on alternative fuels.

“With the grants we’re receiving from the Department of Agriculture, we’re looking at fuels that use farm products and they will give us subsidies that will knock down the price which would make them competitive with carbon-based fuels,” McLeod said. “Ultimately, the added benefit in all of this is that we will be more efficient and be able to pay those benefits forward to our forces.”