News: DLA partners close out industry conference
Story by Sara Moore
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Finding ways to increase efficiency while maintaining or improving quality of products and services was the enduring theme as the 2011 Defense Logistics Agency Industry Conference and Exhibition closed out its final day June 30 in Columbus, Ohio.
The morning included a business panel featuring executives from several large corporations the Defense Department does business with and speeches by representatives from two of DLA’s partner organizations.
The business executives focused on the conference’s overarching theme: cutting costs and increasing efficiencies while improving the quality and level of support to military customers. Philip Tombaugh, director of global public sector for PRTM Management Consultants, noted that the budget challenges the U.S. government faces will be enduring.
“This is probably not a couple years of challenge, but we think it’s probably closer to a decade of challenge,” Tombaugh said. “It’s not something that’s going to be over in a year or two.”
Industry can offer some real solutions for DLA and DoD in addressing budget challenges, he said. Commercial practices will need to be adapted to best serve the government, he acknowledged, but key areas could optimize the supply chain in a downturn, such as engaging in end-to-end planning and improving supplier assurance.
From a defense perspective, DLA is a leader in end-to-end supply chain integration, said Louis Kratz, vice president for logistics and sustainment, corporate engineering and technology with the Lockheed Martin Corporation. He noted several examples of DLA’s success, such as aircraft tire privatization, the fleet automotive support initiative and the industrial prime vendor program. DLA and industry need to accelerate supply chain partnering to continue this success, he said.
“I’m asking my industry colleagues [to] look to DLA as the best value provider,” Kratz said. “For Lockheed’s part, we are DLA’s largest commercial customer, and they have always delivered on time and at best value.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wetekam, senior vice president for government and defense business development for the AAR Corporation, said that since leaving military service, he has learned a lot about commercial supply chain techniques and how they can benefit government logistics operations.
“There has to be a much more rapid move toward commercial supply chains,” Wetekam said, citing the example of DoD maintaining separate supply chains and systems.
Teresa McKay, director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, focused on the partnering efforts between her agency and DLA to increase stewardship.
“We’ve established a very strong relationship with DLA in support of stewardship excellence,” McKay said. “We’ve been very successful in collaboration with you in business transformation efforts. We’ve worked hand-in-hand to modernize old business processes, reduce on-hand balances and backlogs and to strengthen internal controls and develop internal solutions.”
One of the ways DFAS is working to reduce costs is by phasing out legacy finance and accounting systems in favor of the Enterprise Business System, McKay said. She noted the majority of DLA’s transactions take place electronically, putting the agency on the leading edge.
McKay also highlighted DFAS and DLA efforts to achieve audit readiness. In the past year, DFAS changed its strategy to align with the structure of the military services and defense agencies and is making steady progress. She stressed that audit readiness is really not a process that will ever end, she said.
“In these past years we’ve really changed our culture and emphasized the need to be audit ready every day,” she said. “Success is not just that audit opinion but what’s behind that audit opinion, and that’s improved business practices.”
As DLA strives to reduce costs, it also maintains its focus on quality service to warfighters, and partnering with organizations like the National Industries for the Blind helps it do that, that organization’s president said.
Kevin Lynch spoke about the partnership his organization has with DLA, specifically through the AbilityOne program, and how that program has helped thousands of blind people gain employment providing vital services to the government.
AbilityOne is a federal program that works with nonprofit organizations to employ blind people and others with severe disabilities. DLA is one of AbilityOne’s largest supporters, with DLA Troop Support leading the government in supporting the program in 2010, Lynch said. Blind people have a 70 percent unemployment rate, so there is more that needs to be done through the program, but he said DLA remains a leader in employing blind and disabled people.
“DLA leads the pack in AbilityOne sales results,” he said. “We can’t thank you enough in terms of your support, and we’d like to challenge the other branches and the other agencies to follow your lead.”
Lynch specifically highlighted the efforts AbilityOne makes to hire wounded veterans. The program provides employment and training to 3,300 wounded veterans, including 1,600 with severe disabilities.
“We want to leverage their skills and aptitudes they have from active duty,” he said. “We’re working closely with other national wounded warrior programs to make sure that individuals who are coming back know that they have an opportunity for employment.”
To close, Lynch profiled several AbilityOne participated who have benefitted from DLA’s support. They included a blind former engineer who works at the DLA Land and Maritime base supply center and a woman with Down ’s syndrome who works for DLA Troop Support packing and shipping clothing.
“There really are people behind what we do and behind what you do in terms of supporting the AbilityOne program, and we couldn’t do it without you,” he said.