News: Thompson shares DLA strategy, success with NDU students
Story by Beth Reece
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- National Defense University students learned how the Defense Logistics Agency combines military strategy and leadership to provide logistics support to America’s warfighters during a presentation from DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson, Jan. 12, at Fort McNair, Va.
As a Department of Defense combat support agency, DLA manages eight supply chains, operates 26 distribution centers and provides logistics services ranging from property disposal to document automation. It is a $42 billion global enterprise with more than 26,000 employees in 28 countries.
While the agency has a five-year strategic plan like most large organizations, Thompson said, it’s important that military leaders cull their overarching strategic visions down into short-term objectives. At DLA, the admiral uses his annual Director’s Guidance to align employees’ focus and guide their efforts.
“We ask ourselves, ‘What do we need to do in the next 12 months to transform the agency to best meet the requirements of the armed forces and Department of Defense?’ Essentially, what we end up doing is identifying a small number of significant initiatives that – in addition to doing the business of the day, responding to our warfighters and nondeployed customers – prepare us for the future,” he said.
This year’s guidance includes 19 initiatives in three strategic focus areas that have hallmarked DLA’s existence since its creation in 1961.
“These focuses areas are enduring. We exist to support the warfighter; we have to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money; and we do it that through our workforce,” he said.
Thompson advised students to streamline their initiatives, limiting them to 20 or less if possible.
“If you do too many things, you’ll do them at a fairly mediocre level,” he continued. “But if you can figure out what is really the most important and focus intensely on that, what you’ll find is that you really do have significant progress.”
Not every initiative will be a home run, he said, “but we find that typically 90 percent of them are.”
Strategic partnerships such as the one DLA has with the U.S. industrial base also enable the agency to best support customers. DLA Land and Maritime’s partnership with original equipment manufacturers, for example, helped the agency maintain operational readiness rates over 90 percent for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
And at the request of U.S. Central Command, DLA has also built partnerships with local vendors in countries surrounding the Northern Distribution Network, which is used to get supplies to warfighters in Afghanistan. Several teams have worked in Central Asia to explain how local industry can do business with DLA and DoD.
“What we’re trying to do is demonstrate that when these nations support the United States in the transit of supplies to our forces in Afghanistan, there can be a positive economic impact for them, as well,” Thompson said.
The agency is also heavily engaged in Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ efficiency initiatives. It recently submitted 15 recommendations on how DLA could be leveraged to reduce costs throughout DoD, the admiral said, citing the Strategic Network Optimization Program as one example. SNO is expected to optimize the number, location and functions of distribution facilities to reduce operating costs while also balancing efficiency and effectiveness.
Looking to the future, Thompson said DLA will continue to support warfighters and reduce costs while improving industrial support and re-energizing customer relationship management.
About 500 students attended the admiral’s presentation, which is part of the NDU’s Distinguished Lecture Program, through which national leaders from the joint environment share insight and experience.
Four DLA team members are currently attending NDU’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces: Betty Hoapili of DLA Logistics Operations, Charles Brown of DLA Information Operations, Kimberly Cornett of DLA Acquisition, and Elias Dungca of DLA Troop Support.