DLA Director shares culture survey results, progress toward strategic plan goals

By Beth Reece

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Mission and involvement were the most improved areas of the Defense Logistics Agency’s 2016 Culture Survey, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch said during a town hall focusing on agency goals in areas such as people and culture at the McNamara Headquarters Complex July 27.

The agency achieved a 68-percent response rate, compared with 62 percent in the 2014 survey. Busch said he was pleased to find that 74 percent of the respondents understand the agency’s focus on resiliency. However, about half the respondents noted they were unaware of existing resources that support mental, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing. Likewise, the percentage of respondents who participated in wellness and fitness programs fell from 89 percent in 2014 to 59 percent in 2016.

“I think we have a lot of good programs, but they’re underutilized. If we need new programs we’ll look at that, but certainly let’s take advantage of what we already have,” Busch said.

DLA’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is one component of resiliency that agency leaders are working to improve, he added. Standards are being set for how leaders across the agency will respond to incidents and manage cases, and greater emphasis is being placed on victim care.

“There’s a whole string of people who will be out there to deal with the alleged perpetrator, but we need to get better at the victim-care piece,” Busch said.

DLA’s telework program was a common topic in write-in comments. Some said eligibility to participate in telework is inconsistent among employees; others expressed the desire to telework on a more frequent basis.

“We’ve got to try to be more consistent on that and explain to people that if they’re not in a situation where they can telework three or four days a week, why that is,” said DLA Vice Director Ted Case. “But there’s also a culture that we have to maintain at our base level. If you’re teleworking all the time, and you’re not participating in our culture, that’s going to become a problem for us in the future.”

The survey drew 29,000 write-in comments, 10,000 more than in 2014. Case said an overwhelming number of respondents said supervisors were reluctant to approach them.

“Folks really want you to walk the floors. They want to talk to you,” he added.

Other comments involve areas that agency leaders can immediately act upon for “quick-wins,” and action plans will be completed by the end of September for areas that need more development and focus.

Busch also updated the audience on the state of DLA’s support to customers, which falls in three categories: combatant commands, the services and whole-of-government entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency is working closely with U.S. Pacific Command to adjust stock in Korea, where troop locations are “changing radically,” Busch said.

The agency is also working with U.S. Southern Command to plan support, particularly from DLA Troop Support and DLA Energy, in the case of mass migration contingency planning there. And U.S. Strategic Command continues to regard DLA as a key player in the sustainment of the nuclear enterprise.

DLA’s relationship with the services is equally important, Busch said, adding that he and Case strive to meet 15 to 20 specific key leaders every six to eight weeks.
 
“I can’t tell you the extent to which that has paid dividends for us. Alan Estevez [deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics] has a habit of asking these same people that Ted and I talk to what DLA is doing for them,” he said, thanking employees for developing timely responses to questions from service leaders.

The director also challenged employees to avoid settling into routines while working with the services.

“Think about what the services are saying internal to themselves about DLA support. Is there a briefing that’s given to senior leaders in a service that talks about DLA support in a way that might not be very flattering, or the metrics are red? Think about what more we can do because I don’t want to settle into a routine where all we’re doing is looking at the same charts that are set up the same way I told you to do them 10 months ago,” he continued.

Support to whole-of-government customers like the U.S. Agency for International Development accounts for almost 20 percent of the agency’s business. Sales are small compared to those of military customers, but the impact is significant, Busch said.

“When they are fighting a fire, there’s a hodgepodge of people involved. It’s county people, state people, federal people, and they all bringing their own supply chains. They’re now looking at ways DLA, a national logistics provider, can standardize support for firefighting nationally.”

In other updates, the director stressed the importance of performance-based logistics and its potential to solve the services’ readiness problems. And as the agency awaits its independent audit, employees must continue seeking improvement in areas such as evidential matter and internal controls.

“We have to create a sense of anxiety over this that I don’t think exists at a level much below the leadership echelon of the agency,” Busch said. “Everyone needs to know they are in this. We have to get this thing right.”

He concluded with comments about process excellence and continuous process improvement. Enterprise-level CPI projects are delivering change and local efforts are “pretty good.”

“I would like to see more of the workforce involved,” he said, adding that the number of employees who have formal CPI training outweighs the amount of projects being conducted.

“The stuff that’s on our plate with major headquarters activities and reductions, and any other challenges, just calls for us to look to see if we’re as efficient as we can possibly be,” he said.