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Defense Logistics Agency Improves Support While Downsizing

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 – The Defense Logistics Agency is downsizing as the U.S. military reduces its role in overseas conflicts and operations, the agency’s director said today.

Through fiscal year 2019, DLA is going to have less people, infrastructure, inventory, as well as a smaller financial footprint, Navy Vice Adm. Mark D. Harnitchek told the Defense Writers’ Group, a trend that is inevitable with a shrinking military.

“If the department’s budget is less by 30 percent, I have to be less by 30 percent,” Harnitchek said. “We have to be ready to significantly improve support at a whole lot less cost.”

The agency, a $40 billion enterprise, has a goal of taking $13 billion out of the cost of material and operations by fiscal 2019.

Meanwhile, DLA is reducing its inventory and “right-sizing” the infrastructure needed to manage it. “Over the past two years, we have taken about $5 [billion] of our $15 billion inventory out of the system -- stuff we don’t need or excess to our needs,” Harnitchek said. “There is a like-amount of downward pressure in the infrastructure that we house that material in.”

The agency also has scrapped its World War II-vintage warehouse model. “With the inventory out, we’ve taken the equivalent of 45 football fields of covered storage out,” the admiral said. “We are looking at the models here that tell us how much to keep and how long to keep it.”

Harnitchek said DLA is achieving more efficiency from its inventory, now one-third smaller than it was two years ago.

“That’s because of the relentless focus on basic business ‘blocking and tackling’ and contract execution -- buy enough, buy on time and make sure the contractor delivers,” he said.

Yet, the agency needs to be ready for any eventuality, the admiral said. “There is an arc of instability that goes from Central Asia through the Middle East into North Africa and the trans-Sahara,” he said. “We need to be ready all the time, and we need to be quick.”

Harnitchek said keeping military forces supplied is what dominates his discussions with combatant commanders.

“We don’t talk about whether we have enough lumber or fuel,” he said. “It’s all about, ‘Can I get the stuff there?’ The big challenge for a logistician looking ahead is access and infrastructure.”

DLA and U.S. Transportation Command work closely together and that will continue, Harnitchek said.

“Whether it’s a steak that is sourced out of Sysco here in the western part of the state or it’s eggs we’re buying in Latvia to make omelets in Afghanistan, Transcom moves that,” he said. “I buy it. I figure out where to source it from and then we give it to Transcom and they put it in the Defense Transportation System and they move it.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneAFPS)


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Navy Vice Adm. Mark D. Harnitchek

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