Who could the Defense Logistics Agency turn to help stand up a new office, modernize the way it does business or stabilize support for an entire supply chain after a scandal? In each case, Paul Zebrowski answered the call and will be recognized for his accomplishments with a place in the DLA Hall of Fame Sept. 20.
“I have always enjoyed solving problems: the thornier, the better,” Zebrowski said, summarizing much of the work he did for DLA, including as the deputy director for the Clothing and Textiles supply chain and later as the chief of Acquisition Operations.
Zebrowski cited rebuilding the DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles industrial base as the most difficult challenge he faced in his 34 years with the agency.
“Several key members of C&T management were removed due to alleged illegal activities involving government contractors,” Army Brig. Gen. Charles Hamilton, commander of DLA Troop Support, explained in his nomination justification. “The events during this time left the workforce extremely vulnerable. Paul’s confident, methodical approach to returning normalcy to the workplace allowed employees to recover and return to the world-class support they were known for.”
Both employees and vendors needed support in the aftermath of these events, aided by Zebrowski as the Clothing and Textiles deputy director. Town hall meetings, an expanded Employee Assistance Program and supervisor counseling helped steady the workforce, while enhanced relations with vendors and trade organizations reinforced the supply chain.
“He led C&T out of a very dark time, healing a shattered industrial base and strengthening a workforce,” said Keith Ford, current deputy director of Clothing and Textiles.
Steadying Clothing and Textiles is often the first thing mentioned about Zebrowski, but it’s not what he considers his most enduring mark on DLA.
“While rebuilding the Clothing and Textiles industrial base was the most difficult challenge that I faced, I think that helping that organization modernize its business practices and management structure was my lasting contribution,” he said.
In 1987, Clothing and Textiles only had five computers for 500 people, kept excess obsolete items in inventory and had shortages of required items. In 1989 there were no shortages, and excess items were reduced, thanks to improved acquisition strategies and a vibrant new supplier base. Employees became linked by an internal network in 1990. Then in 1995, Clothing and Textiles deployed the Department of Defense’s first internet-based catalog and ordering system, which eventually became part of the DoD Electronic Mall.
“While the specific strategies and methods have continued to evolve, during those first years Clothing and Textiles changed from a tradition-bound organization to one that consistently looks to the future in its determination to provide the military services with the support they require and deserve,” Zebrowski said.
“His unique in-house, on-the-job training sessions, C&T University, are still a practice today. His business acumen led C&T to change into ‘tip of the spear’ support to many customers,” Ford said.
Zebrowski also changed the way contracting was handled in the organization.
“Historically at DLA, contracts were awarded using sealed bids for periods of time ranging from three months to a year,” Ford explained. “Under his leadership, C&T staff executed some the first best-value acquisitions in DLA and implemented the use of multi-sourcing and long-term contracts. These techniques are now considered the standard for DLA contracting.”
Acquisition expertise led to Zebrowski moving from the field at DLA Troop Support to the headquarters with DLA Acquisition, where he finished his career. Assisting with the creation of DLA Acquisition was one of his other top accomplishments, and he noted it reflected the recognition of acquisition as a pillar of the agency’s mission.
“He was a pioneering leader whose guidance and expertise influenced many policies and daily practices that are still implemented throughout DLA,” said William Kenny, executive director of Acquisition Strategy and Contract for Troop Support. “From his understanding on mandatory sources to ensuring contracts were compliant with Federal Acquisition Regulations and garnered the right completion, Paul’s knowledge on procurement and acquisition matters was beyond impressive.”
There was a common thread in every major undertaking in Zebrowski’s career, from start to finish.
“In each case I would say that I made it a point to understand the challenge fully, both in nature and scope, and I was able to take advantage of the vast talent resources that the agency has at its disposal, seeking out expertise wherever it was to be found and asking for help,” Zebrowski said.
A benefit to a 34-year career with DLA is being able to see it evolve to meet new changes, whether part of them or not.
“As I have watched, DLA has changed itself over and over again to meet the changing needs of the military services,” he said. “To have worked for an agency that executes such an important mission so very well, and to have played a small role in its success, is deeply gratifying and a source of great pride.”