DLA Director visits, praises employees at DLA Disposition Services

By Tim Hoyle DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

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Fresh from his March 12-21 tour of the Pacific, Defense Logistics Agency Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch traveled to Battle Creek, Michigan, to hear presentations on the DLA Disposition Services Annual Operating Plan and conduct a town hall session with DLA employees.

Before the AOP briefings, Busch took time to present coins to Lori Willi, Leonard Clyde, Josiah Kidd and Navy Lt. Joseph Thomas, thanking them individually for their exemplary services to the agency. The coin presentations were followed by several hours of discussion on the AOP that included ideas on DLA Dispositions Services’ approaches on the Director’s Five Focus Areas: warfighter first, people and culture, strategic engagement, financial stewardship and process excellence.

But before those discussions began, Busch took a moment to say he came to Battle Creek without any significant concerns.

“I just came from [Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command], where I heard good things on what you do,” Busch said. Reflecting on his recent Pacific stops, he added, “Your facilities look great.”

While discussing the "warfighter first "area, DLA Disposition Services Customer Support Director Tina Aldrich said customer training is critical to efficiency during the turn-in process. She outlined available training tools such as a customer handbook, the Turn-In Smartbook, Insight newsletter and instructional YouTube videos, such as how to create a wish list for desired items.

“The video was actually a suggestion from the field,” DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon said. “An employee at Camp Pendleton talked about how much time was spent showing customers individually and asked if a video could be offered.”  

Other warfighter-support areas included dealing with hazardous waste in Iraq and scrap in Kuwait for Operation Freedom Sentinel, training reservists and civilian employees for deployment and the personnel and contractor reductions related to Operation Resolute Support. Cannon described how having people train together has paid off, because when they get overseas and start working they all know each other.

“This is great work,” Busch said. “What you are doing is visible at an international level.”

The "people and culture" discussions highlighted resiliency and the DLA Disposition Services community. Cannon described how public oaths of office for new employees were being brought back to reinforce the importance of the work being done.

“This is not just a 9:00-to-5:00 job,” Cannon said.

Communication was also stressed as an important part of culture. Cannon said it is good to get out and talk with the people. Kickoff events to communicate about the start of the Culture Survey were also mentioned.

“The opportunity for everyone to complete a survey is my charge to you,” Busch said. “From there we will see where it goes.”

The arrival of the VPP recertification team was discussed along with the importance of safety programs. Cannon praised the local DLA Installation Support team for managing the VPP program. He also talked about how the field sites all participate in whatever safety programs are available at their host installations.

“Wherever there is a safety council, you will find a DLA Disposition Services representative,” Cannon said.

Strategic engagement discussions highlighted collaborations with providers to incentivize productivity and efficiency and the ship recycling initiative. Collaborations included discussions with the hazardous waste disposal industry to increase recycling and reduce costs. Declining scrap prices and their impact on ship recycling was also discussed.

Financial stewardship discussions involved the challenges of dealing with inventory, opportunities to increase use of the Reutilization, Transfer, Donation program and creating sales opportunities to maximize revenue. Using a mobile photo application was one of the ways mentioned for increasing RTD use. Snapping a picture when items are first turned in could help make more images available and give customers a better idea of the condition of an item in the inventory. Turning service contracts into sales contracts was also shown to have increased revenue from sales contracts auctions for rolling stock, usable property and electronic recycling.

Process-excellence talks included the steps taken to comply with the White House Performance Working Group and Executive Order 13688, dealing with which items law enforcement programs should  and should not receive.  Cannon praised the efforts of the Law Enforcement Support Office and others involved. He was happy to note how the tracked vehicles being recalled were then offered to ranges.

“Instead of us having to do demilitarization, we are letting the services blow them up into little pieces,” Cannon said.

Other process excellence topics included maintaining and improving process standardization, the Disposition to Distribution Initiative and standardized process communication.  

After the briefings, Busch thanked everyone for a good review before heading to a town hall session with DLA employees in Battle Creek. Employees gathered in the Palm Garden and French Rooms and watched online to hear from their director who described his post as “the coolest job you could ever have.” Busch went on to say he likes to make trips to the field to hear what his workforce has to say and to engage with the senior leaders of those the agency supports.

“Every one of these senior leaders knows what DLA and Disposition Services do,” Busch said.

During his visit to Korea, Busch said there was a lot of talk of the desire to move forces out of downtown Seoul and the huge disposal effort that will be needed to handle 70 years of materiel. He also talked about the major support going on at Army posts as the service divests itself of miles and miles of unneeded vehicles. Responding to a question from the field, Busch said the support DLA Disposition Services is providing and the streamlining that has been done to the turn-in process has really helped.

“There is more to do,” Busch said. “Be patient and be flexible.”

Turning to people and culture, Busch said he asked for a model on resiliency for his agency that was similar to what people in the military services have but considers that 95 percent of his workforce is civilian employees. He said the model is important in factoring in the stressors everyone brings to work and in helping each person determine the right program to help with that stress. Busch also asked people not to worry about the Culture Survey because there are no passing or failing results.

“If we have good and honest feedback from you then we have something to work with,” Busch said.

While talking about financial stewardship, Busch addressed a question from the field on reductions in staff and field activities from a Defense Department directive. He said this is something that affects the whole department, not just DLA. The action requires all major headquarters activities to reduce their staff by 25 percent by 2020. There is also a requirement to “de-layer” to ensure there are no more than seven layers of supervision in an organization and there are reductions for full-time positions. Busch said he does not think any adverse personnel actions will be needed to meet the required actions.

Another question from the field addressed telework and why it seemed there were a lot of differences between what different departments would allow, some permitting more days than others. Busch said he has delegated the telework decisions as low as he can. Since the supervisor has to decide on what is appropriate in each area, then there will be differences, he said.

Before leaving, Busch took time to say everyone is doing a great job.

“People know what you do and value what you do,” Busch said.