Supporting Ground- And Sea- Based Supply Chain Adaptability

RDML John Palmer
DLA Land and Maritime
Defense Supply Center
Columbus, OH

From NP&FP, Annual 2020 Issue

Rear Admiral John T. Palmer assumed command of DLA Land and Maritime, Columbus, Ohio, June 27, 2018, after coming from U.S. Pacific Fleet where he served as Director, Logistics, Fleet Supply and Ordnance.

As DLA Land & Maritime Commander, Palmer oversees the end-to-end integration of the DLA Land and Maritime Supply Chains delivering repair parts to all Military Services. He directs the efforts of more than 2,500 associates at 37 locations worldwide, to include three DLA Depot Level Reparable detachments and four detachments supporting U.S. Naval Shipyards. DLA Land and Maritime’s core functions include purchasing materiel, monitoring inventory levels, maintaining technical data, and assuring quality conformance of approximately two million spare and repair parts utilized by more than 19,000 military units and federal and civilian agencies. In 2019, DLA Land and Maritime’s sales exceeded $4.1 billion.

RDML Palmer is a native of Lexington, Kentucky, and a 1988 graduate of The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He also graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science in Systems Management (Acquisition and Contract Management) and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business Senior Executive Program.

His command shore assignments include commanding officer, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center San Diego; commander, Defense Distribution Mapping Activity (DDMA); and commander, Defense Distribution Depot Richmond, Virginia (DDRV). Operational assignments include supply officer, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); principal assistant for logistics, USS George Washington (CVN 73); supply officer, USS Boone (FFG 28); and material division officer and aviation support division officer, USS Guam (LPH 9).

Other tours ashore include assistant commander, Supply Operations & Logistics Policy (N3/4) and executive assistant to Commander, NAVSUP; director of supply corps personnel, Navy Personnel Command (NPC); deputy assistant commander for contracts, deputy department head for contracts in support of PEO (W) (Cruise Missiles & Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and AIR 1.0 (Multi-Mission Aircraft & Multi-Mission Platform Equipment, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR); procurement branch chief, Defense Logistics Agency Aviation (formerly Defense Supply Center Richmond); and instructor of supply management and joint aviation supply & maintenance material management, Navy Supply Corps School.

RDML Palmer, DLA Land and Maritime Commander, Defense Supply Center Columbus, spoke recently with NP&FP regarding current focus areas and challenges at the nation’s combat logistics support agency.

NP&FP: What is DLA L&M’s current broad mission focus and how has that evolved over recent decades to present?

RDML Palmer: Our mission reflects the primary focus area of the Defense Logistics Agency’s overall mission, which is warfighter support, so I’d like to give you a perspective on the scope of DLA’s mission and tie in Land and Maritime’s contribution to that mission.

DLA is the nation’s combat logistics support agency, and as implied, DLA ensures our military services receive whatever commodities they need with the exception of ordnance. These commodities which include food, fuel, parts, clothing and textiles, construction and engineering material, are provided where and when required. DLA’s mission is also enabled by a global network of depots for distributing material as well as a global network of disposition activities that enables us to manage the entire supply chain. DLA has also expanded support beyond the warfighter to other Whole of Government departments and agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance or disaster relief at home and abroad. DLA is a worldwide, 24-hour operation that provides more than $37 billion in goods and services annually, employs approximately 25,000 civilians and military who support the combat readiness of more than 2,500 military weapon systems. This global effort requires DLA to manage about 5 million items.

DLA is a sizable logistics operation with a big footprint, and Land and Maritime’s portion of that capability involves the management of two of DLA’s nine supply chains. As a DLA major subordinate command, Land and Maritime manages the supply chains for ground-based and maritime weapon systems repair parts. As you might imagine, our largest customers are Army and Marine Corps ground weapon systems through our Land Supply Chain and Navy surface ships and submarines through our Maritime Supply Chain.

Land and Maritime’s current mission focuses on supporting our military through inter-service collaboration with the goal of improving operational readiness of their combat equipment. We are a logistics support operation that employs more than 2,500 military and civilians at locations worldwide. Their efforts help maintain approximately 2,200 weapon systems and support more than 21,200 customers, all while managing more than 2 million items. Additionally, we process more than 358,000 contracts annually, which equates to $15.4 million in contract actions per day in pursuit of optimal warfighter support. During FY19, Land and Maritime operations generated more than $4.1 billion worth of repair parts to support maintenance requirements of the military services.

NP&FP: From a combatant command service perspective, how is DLA L&M ensuring COCOM high-level readiness and lethality?

RDML Palmer: From a Force Generation perspective, DLA Land and Maritime not only provides parts to units training and preparing for deployment, but we are also embedded in many of the Services’ maintenance depots coordinating supply, storage and distribution functions. This enables the Services to staff, train and equip units in preparation for operations under the cognizance of the various Combatant Commands (COCOMs). In addition, we provide direct COCOM support through parts positioned for use around the globe by forward deployed operational units.

We track our logistics support effectiveness through several criteria. One of our evaluation metrics is material availability (MA), which measures how often parts under Land and Maritime’s cognizance are available when ordered. Another metric is backorders (BO), which measures the number of unfilled customer orders that exist. Ideally, we want our operating metrics to reflect high MA and low BOs. That means we’re providing quality logistics support to our customers with minimal delays. In FY19, Land and Maritime achieved record setting performances in both MA and BOs. Land and Maritime’s MA exceeded 90%, and this was complemented by a 15% reduction in BOs. That MA translates into Land and Maritime meeting or surpassing the equipment demands of our military services and additional customers in 9 out of 10 requirements. These results are not achieved in isolation. Land and Maritime strategically communicates across the Services to help improve demand planning accuracy by assisting with the identification and prioritization of their operational needs. This communication cross flow increases the tracking accuracy of military weapon system requirements and makes sure those requirements are filled efficiently.

NP&FP: In terms of global posture, how does DLA L&M sustain immediate action readiness regardless of tasking?

RDML Palmer: The DLA Land and Maritime is located in 29 locations around the world to position our team shoulder-to-shoulder with the warfighter at home and abroad. DLA also has regional commanders co-located with overseas COCOMs, and the regional commanders are in constant communications with COCOMs and component commands. This gives us key and timely information to respond to changes in unit schedules and surge activity to include deployments and redeployments. With this information, DLA can leverage our network of distribution depots to store and issue critical material around the world. One of the best examples of global posture is industrial maintenance that is conducted for our Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Japan. DLA Land and Maritime has parts and personnel positioned forward to support the maintenance of these units that are critical to power projection overseas.

NP&FP: With supply chain accountability a priority, talk about ways DLA L&M is streamlining acquisition processes.

RDML Palmer: This is an area of constant advancement. Incorporating contracting innovations, reducing the time it takes to award contracts and improvements in demand forecasting capability are just a few modernizations Land and Maritime employs as we focus on continuous process improvement for our procurement processes. One area that’s proven successful is our increased integration of long term contracts where applicable. Long term contracting has enabled us to reduce procurement lead time while also guaranteeing more reliable parts availability. These and other actions have resulted in documented cost savings that have increased our acquisition efficiency and improved logistics support to our military.

NP&FP: As the threat to homeland security, whether natural disaster or terror-based, speak to ways DLA L&M helps bolster U.S. infrastructure.

RDML Palmer: DLA continues to expand its energies executing objectives outlined in its strategic plan. Under DLA’s Whole of Government focus, the Agency works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other Department of Defense organizations to provide emergency logistics support when requested. We provide support for hurricane relief on a frequent basis in addition to other humanitarian efforts inside and outside the U.S. DLA is able to respond through deployable depots with emergency response teams to provide meals, fuel, water and water treatment capabilities, construction and engineering material and any additional commodities that may be required. By extension, we also provide simultaneous support to National Guard and Reserve units that may also be responding to the events of the day.

NP&FP: To better support the Joint Logistics Enterprise, how is DLA L&M leveraging partnerships with interagency, industry, and foreign allies?

RDML Palmer: As the equipment needs of our services continue to grow, we have redoubled our outreach efforts to bring key defense sector industry leadership together to develop more inventive approaches to meeting the logistics fulfillment challenge. Land and Maritime has strategic supplier alliances (SSAs) with key parts manufacturers that provide large quantities of parts in support of land and maritime weapon systems. Under our SSA agreements, we communicate more frequently with these strategic allies and hold them to higher standards of performance than other vendors. The SSAs result in better warfighter support, but we also host numerous industry forums drawing national industry partners and we regularly collaborate with large and small businesses to improve logistics coordination between the services and DLA. These outreach activities are all components of DLA’s strategy to strengthen the defense industrial base and optimize logistics support operations by generating a synergy that ultimately enhances our military’s readiness posture.

NP&FP: Feel free to speak to any challenges/goals going forward.

RDML Palmer: As the National Defense Strategy makes clear, our armed forces now face the prospect of potential conflict with peer adversaries. As such, strategies are constantly changing to permit our warfighters to fight and win in this new environment. Logistics must be agile enough to compensate for all potential adversaries and adjustments to be made by our leadership across the COCOMs and Services. DLA and DLA Land and Maritime are working to provide agile and flexible logistics in controlled and contested environments to enable our armed forces to fight and win – anytime – anywhere.