News: Exercise, humanitarian support high priorities for DLA in Pacific
Story by Strategic Communications DLA
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - The Defense Logistics Agency’s footprint in U.S. Pacific Command’s operating area is a strong platform for supporting military exercises and contingency operations, the agency’s director said Sept. 13 during a meeting with senior logisticians in Hawaii.
Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson shared his perspective on how DLA’s energy, maritime, troop support and distribution organizations in Hawaii, Guam, Japan and Korea help warfighters accomplish wide-ranging missions in the Pacific during the USPACOM J4 Strategic Logistics Synchronization Forum at the command’s Oahu-based headquarters.
The forum brought together logisticians from component commands in the Pacific for a quarterly discussion on the challenges and successes of supporting operations in a vast and diverse area of responsibility, said Army Brig. Gen. Kevin O’Connell, USPACOM director of logistics.
“We collectively learned a lot from Operation Tomodachi this spring. No one expected a mission of that magnitude and complexity to appear so quickly,” Thompson said.
Meeting requirements in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear devastation in Japan in March demonstrated the value of DLA’s structure in the Pacific, Thompson said.
Army Col. Joe Arnold, DLA Pacific commander, is the agency’s senior liaison officer to USPACOM and its component commands, and several of DLA’s primary-level field activities maintain a presence both on Oahu and at other strategic locations throughout the Pacific.
More than 400 DLA team members work on Oahu, and nearly 1,200 support warfighters in an operating area that covers more than half the world’s surface: 100 million square miles.
DLA’s designation as a combat support agency is what Thompson said brings together his team’s varied capabilities to support combatant commanders.
“As a defense agency we have a direct line to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, but that CSA piece means there’s also a line directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said. “That connection gives DLA a relationship with the geographic [combatant commands] like USPACOM, and we are truly working for the benefit of the combatant commanders.”
One of the foundational tools Thompson said his team uses for running the logistics enterprise is the DLA Fusion Center, a website he encouraged attendees to use as a source for DLA performance data they can incorporate into their own service logistics systems when planning.
“Any of you can access the DLA Fusion Center. It’s got an enormous amount of logistics information displayed in a user-friendly manner. You can look there to see the types and levels of support DLA is providing to customers, and it could be a great addition to your service logistics systems,” Thompson said.
“Our weekly global updates and our monthly governance sessions are built on the data from the Fusion Center; this data is all available to you, and we’d be happy to work with you if you want to incorporate a feed of this data into your logistics systems,” he said. “That’s what this combat support agency designation is all about – absolute synchronization with the combatant commanders.”
Contingency and exercise planning are vital in USPACOM because of the sheer magnitude of the distances involved, which are normally measured in travel days rather than hours, officials said.
“One thing about this operating theater, It’s huge and getting resupply and equipment to operating locations is a heck of a challenge even in peacetime,” Army Maj. Gen. William Beard, deputy commander of Army Reserve troops within U.S. Army Pacific, told Thompson and his senior Pacific leaders during an office call Sept. 13.
“Lots of coordination and synchronization has to take place just to get items out there. We’re exploring ‘what ifs’ for strategic locations and what happens should the supply chain become broken somewhere, even for a short time,” he said.
DLA supports exercises and operations with energy solutions, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief items, and troop support products like tents and water, said DLA Pacific Deputy Commander Bobbi Collins. The team has an established slate of vendors in Korea and Okinawa from which it can purchase to meet those needs.
“It’s a stable vendor platform in Japan, Singapore and Guam, all within reach for DLA. We’re thinking about warfighters’ needs and how we can best position material to support them,” she said.
If customers need material that DLA doesn’t traditionally locate near them, the agency can only begin to move the material once a customer places an order, Collins said.
“We’re exploring mechanisms to get to a compromise where both DLA and the customer share a little risk so we can get some items closer to meet an expected need. That way, once the customer places that order, the material will get to them quickly,” she said.
“Right now, countries requesting humanitarian assistance have to place a request to be routed through the State Department,” said Army Col. Glenn Grothe, the Army’s 8th Theater Support Command chief of staff. “It takes coordination to get to the point where we’re placing an order with DLA, and if that material is too far away from where it’s needed, it may be too late.”
The idea is to establish a basic business process to allow DLA to lean forward to meet military and humanitarian-relief objectives and provide timely support while protecting the agency and the Defense Department.
“What it would take is finding the 60 percent solution, which means identifying about 60 percent of the most commonly requested items [in a situation], and once we settle on that list with USPACOM we can take the next steps forward,” Collins said.