DLA Aviation leaders discuss how to deliver high-impact, customer-focused outcomes

Defense Logistics Agency Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch met with DLA Aviation leadership during his fiscal 2016 Annual Operating Plan review held Feb. 5 in Richmond, Virginia. The intent of the half-day work session was to provide a biannual assessment of DLA Aviation’s progress towards achieving its AOP goals and objectives and a look at the way ahead.

Key leaders from DLA Headquarters joined Busch in Richmond for the AOP review, including Edward Case, vice director; Navy Rear Adm. Vincent Griffith, director, DLA Logistics Operations; and DLA Senior Enlisted Advisor Army Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Tobin. 

DLA Aviation’s fiscal 2016 AOP is an outward-focused strategic instrument targeting specific objectives delivering high-impact, customer-based outcomes. A living document, it’s subject to change as priorities, the operating environment and performance agreements change.

The day began with DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day addressing those in attendance. “This isn’t just a discussion with Lt. Gen. Busch. It’s a chance for us to dialogue and help us get better,” said Day.

DLA Aviation’s pivotal role in supporting warfighter readiness was the first discussion point. One performance objective highlighted as part of the agency’s Warfighter First strategic goal was how to improve collaboration with customers at all levels.

Suggested actions included working with combatant commanders to re-examine forward stocking and achieving an agreed upon fill rate for critical weapons systems or systems with an increased theater footprint, eliminating issues with supporting the Navy’s F/A-18 fighter jet airframe issues, and supporting the Army Aviation Restructure Initiative. DLA Aviation at Philadelphia has taken steps to address the F/A-18 airframe issues by standing up a dedicated Tactical Tiger Team.

Another performance objective tied to Warfighter First is improving nuclear enterprise support with the focus on intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bombers, and Nuclear Command, Control and Communications product support strategies and demand planning.

Supporting the Warfighter is very personal for Tobin. His son is an Army UH-60 helicopter pilot. “I tell my son, ‘You have to remember, there are a lot of people working behind the scenes, doing phenomenal work to help you be successful in the cockpit,’ ” he told the DLA Aviation team.

Another aspect of keen interest was the Marine team fleet engagement. In the past, with only two full-time, active duty Marines stationed at DLA Aviation, it was difficult to engage the fleet and address readiness challenges. 

Last summer, the Marine Corps created more billets, and in less than a year this team has grown to seven, resulting in improved readiness and communication and an increase in overall engagements. Marine Corps Maj. Chris Story is the senior Marine at DLA Aviation. He said the plan is to double this number to 14 by the end of this summer. “Because most of us came right from the fleet, we still have those points of contact back at those duty stations and we are able to translate the need to the civilians here and the manufacturers,” said Story.

Warfighter readiness was also covered with a review of DLA Aviation Contingency Support Team members currently deployed and those projected to deploy worldwide in the next 12 months to the military’s combatant commands.

The review covered metrics for DLA Aviation’s retail support to each of the military services, as well as its wholesale business and actions initiated on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis to improve process management.

The People and Culture portion of the review had the largest number of briefers. Topics covered included leadership initiatives, employee activities, senior leader development, future hiring plans, cultural activity plans and diversity.

Leadership initiatives included a review of a two-year structured executive mentoring program which will graduate ten mid-to-senior-level employees in 2017. 

Diversity discussions included efforts to hire more Hispanics, which is one of the most underrepresented groups nationally amongst the DLA Aviation workforce. According to Harold McManus, DLA Aviation’s Office of Equal Employment and Diversity manager, the activity is attempting to increase Hispanic representation through the agency’s DLA Pathways to Career Excellence Program and outreach to specific colleges and universities.

Resiliency and Voluntary Protection Program were also key topics.

Resiliency is defined as the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands and is part the agency’s five core values: integrity, resiliency and diversity, innovation, accountability, and excellence.

Resiliency training began in December 2015 and the goal is to have 100 percent of the DLA Aviation workforce trained in resiliency by September 2016 by conducting monthly training.

The DLA resilience model has four pillars:  

•  Mental — The ability to effectively cope with mental stressors and challenges. 

•  Physical — The ability to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors

•  Social — The ability to network.

•  Spiritual — The ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, or values needed to persevere and prevail in accomplishing missions.

Day discussed the importance of embracing change and planning for success. Briefers highlighted new initiatives developed to enhance communication and employee morale such as monthly Employee and Leadership Working Groups, executive mentorship programs, Warrior Wednesdays recognizing and saluting our military employees, and visual displays to align the workforce around common themes.

Some workforce initiatives discussed included peer-to-peer and leadership awards recognizing outstanding performance, job shadowing opportunities, flash mentoring and leadership forums.

Defense Supply Center Richmond is striving to obtain its first star under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program. The VPP recognizes those who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.

DLA Installation Support at Richmond and DLA Aviation completed a mock VPP audit in January, performed by Department of Defense’s Safety Management Center of Excellence and DLA Headquarters Installation Support personal.  The installation will submit its application for star status to OSHA in March.

Discussions on process excellence initiatives, supplier relationships, and audit readiness rounded out the AOP review, with dialog covering how DLA Aviation is improving long-term contract coverage and increasing manual throughput on purchase requests.  Lengthy discussions were held on why certain items are hard-to-source, including lack of supplier interest, cold supply chains, small quantities, engineering or technical issues and what actions DLA Aviation is taking to overcome these challenges.

After the final presentation, Lt. Gen. Busch wrapped up the session with a glowing review of the hard work put in by his DLA Aviation leadership. “We have delighted our warfighting customers. I can’t go anywhere without running into delighted customers. I look forward to your continued support,” said Busch.

Editor’s note: Cathy Hopkins, DLA Aviation public affairs specialist, contributed to this article.