News: International students learn about DLA
Story by Beth Reece
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - The National Defense University’s International Fellows Class of 2010 gained insight into how the Defense Logistics Agency operates as America’s combat logistics support agency during a Dec. 6 visit at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.
The students are attending NDU’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, which provides graduate-level education to senior members of the U.S. armed forces, government civilians, foreign nationals and private industry.
This is the second year ICAF students have visited DLA to learn more about logistics, said Kelly Morris, who teaches acquisition courses at ICAF and serves as DLA chairwoman for ICAF.
DLA was formed in 1962 to consolidate logistics functions that were done separately by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – a move that created great efficiencies for the Defense Department, said DLA Logistics Operations Director Army Brig. Gen. Lynn Collyar.
While the effort has served America’s military well, the general cautioned students that too much consolidation, especially in small nations’ military forces, can upset the balance of effectiveness and efficiency.
“You have to be careful because consolidation can go too far and take away your capability to provide the right amount of support. And if you can’t be effective, then all the efficiencies in the world won’t do any good,” he said.
Army Col. Betty Yarbrough, also with DLA Logistics Operations, outlined the agency’s eight supply chains, 26 distribution centers and logistics services that include document automation and property disposal. DLA’s $42 billion global enterprise accounts for 83 percent of consumable items used by U.S. service members, she added.
“To give you an idea of the scope of what we do, 10,000 procurement actions happen every day; 60,000 receipts and issues are done each day at our warehouses and depots; and 13 million gallons of fuel are issued daily. That’s a significant effort,” she said.
Nations that don’t include logistics in operational planning put themselves at high risk of failure, added retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude Christianson, who currently serves as director of NDU’s Center for Joint and Strategic Logistics.
“As courses of action are being developed, logisticians ought to be developing at least the framework of concept for supporting those actions. If that’s not being done at the same time the courses of action are being developed, then logisticians can’t keep up; they’ll be running to catch up by the time a final decision is made,” Christianson said.
As the global environment changes, operational planning will become increasingly fast paced, he continued. “It’s not like we’ve got six or eight months to work on a course of action. At the operational level, courses of action are being developed in less than two days. That’s a fundamental shift.”
The students, most of whom are not logisticians, also learned about DLA’s current strategic initiatives and DLA Energy. Each topic inspired questions about how individual nations could adopt some of DLA’s practices.
Canadian Navy Capt. Paul Hendry questioned the future of equipment standardization.
“With the complexities and number of partners we’re going to have while operating together in the future, where do you think we’re going with standardization of equipment outside of NATO?” he asked.
Collyar later pointed out that DLA manages 5 million line items. If nations built vehicles with more common parts, that could have a huge effect in standardization, he added.
Yarbrough encouraged the students to continue learning how the U.S. military operates and to adopt best practices that are suitable for their individual nations.
“You can stand back and watch what we’re doing on a very large scale and sometimes tailor it for smaller countries,” she said.