Sustaining Mission Success Through the Last Tactical Mile
From Armor & Mobility, March/April 2019 Issue
RADM Michelle C. Skubic
Naval Supply Systems Command
Chief of Supply Corps
Rear Adm. Michelle C. Skubic became Commander, U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and 48th Chief of Supply Corps on July 13, 2018. Her operational assignments include: division officer in readiness and services billets, aboard USS Acadia (AD 42), which included deployment for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; supply officer aboard Precommissioning Unit (PCU) McFaul (DDG 74), built in Pascagoula, MS; and supply officer aboard PCU George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), built in Newport News, VA, which was commissioned to the fleet in January 2009. Additionally, she completed a tour forward-deployed as commander, Defense Logistics Agency Support Team in Kuwait, where her team, in concert with other DLA activities, supported U. S. Central Command, U. S. Army Central, and other DoD organizations.
Rear Adm. Skubic’s shore assignments include: services officer and carrier readiness officer at Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego; combined bachelor quarters officer and aviation support division officer, Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily; deputy department head for program contracts, Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, MD; deputy force supply officer, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, San Diego; director of supplier operations, DLA Aviation, Richmond, VA; commanding officer, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, VA; chief of staff, NAVSUP, Mechanicsburg, PA; director, Logistics, Fleet Supply and Ordnance, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI; and commander, DLA Land and Maritime, Columbus, OH.
Armor & Mobility spoke with RADM Michelle Skubic, Commander, U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), regarding current efforts to bridge gaps associated with timely re-supply of Fleet operations supporting response on a global scale.
A&M: Could you give us a look at today’s NAVSUP mission and why it is so vital to present day Fleet operations?
RADM Skubic: Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) is a critical logistics and sustainment enabler for our Navy and Joint warfighters. We are a 22,500-member strong organization made up of active-duty and reserve officer and enlisted personnel, civil servants, and contractors who provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and Joint warfighter. NAVSUP Headquarters is an Echelon II command located in Mechanicsburg, PA, and oversees a global enterprise of 11 subordinate commands. NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) is primarily responsible for Supply Chain Management of weapon systems repair parts. Our eight NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Centers (FLC) are NAVSUP’s “Face to the Fleet,” globally-positioned to provide customer support to our operational forces. NAVSUP Business Systems Center (BSC) provides business solutions through information technology/information management. Finally, Navy Exchange Services Command (NEXCOM) is our quality-of-life provider, managing 300 retail locations worldwide, over 180 ships’ stores, 39 Navy Lodges, the Navy’s Uniform Program Office and the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility.
Our officers and enlisted personnel stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the warfighters, serving on and deploying with operational units and ensuring their unique maritime, aviation, and expeditionary requirements are understood and met. These deployed personnel are sustained by the broader NAVSUP family through material tracking/expediting/delivery, and support for contracting, Logistics Information Technology (LogIT), postal services, food service, quality-of-life services, and associated policies.
NAVSUP’s global reach helps us provide the vital and sometimes most difficult “last tactical mile” support to our deployed units. NAVSUP commands are positioned across the country and around the world to ensure our units have weapon systems that are fully mission capable. We are a geographically-dispersed organization; co-located with customers and stakeholders, and aligned with numbered fleets and regional commanders. We also have the unique capability to translate and integrate Navy requirements across many different organizations within the Department of Defense to ensure our warfighters have what they need to successfully complete their assigned missions.
A&M: Although the NAVSUP reform initiative had been started before you assumed command, could you explain the reasons for it and its goals? What are your plans to continue those reform efforts?
RADM Skubic: NAVSUP launched its reform program in April 2017 to improve business processes in response to the Secretary of Defense’s call to action to increase readiness and lethality. The strategic and operational environments are changing, and NAVSUP must also change to continue to meet the fleet’s needs in two ways: (1) increasing customer demands require us to increase our capabilities to meet them, and (2) NAVSUP services need to adapt to advances in digital customer service and elevated technological capabilities. NAVSUP is reforming to enhance our unique capabilities, which, in turn, allow us to be better positioned to support our customer as the Navy’s leader for supply chain management.
Starting with a customer focus, our planners interviewed and surveyed our customers across all levels to understand their concerns, pain points, and how to improve partnering. We used this initial input to develop our reform focus areas.
The reform program is structured around five core pillars focused on essential areas for change, plus four key enablers that span the core pillars to support and drive change throughout NAVSUP. The five core pillars are: (1) Responsive Contracting, designed to increase the speed and productivity of acquisition; (2) Forecasting, focused on enhancing predictions and use of forecasts to improve the speed and reliability of weapon systems spares support; (3) Customer Presence, redefining how we partner with our customers; (4) Strategic Supplier Management, increasing long-term arrangements and relationships with suppliers to improve supplier performance and collaboration; and (5) Integrated Logistics, focusing on the end-to-end supply chain visibility and enhanced last tactical mile support. There are four key enablers supporting these pillars; they are (1) Digital Accelerator, providing new digital tools and improving data insight; (2) Enabling New Era Workforce, enhancing the workforce to support and sustain reform efforts; (3) Audit, providing transparent and consistent processes and results; and (4) Driving Reform, communicating and facilitating the change.
NAVSUP’s reform program will improve our support to customers and increase readiness and responsiveness. As we continue on our 18-month timeline, we have launched new initiatives under each of our core pillars to improve performance, and hold ourselves accountable to targets.
As we enter into the fourth quarter of reform, we are continuing the momentum by expanding our Customer Presence pilot to improve communications and transparency with our customers, increasing efforts focused on supplier engagement, and supporting cross-functional teaming across the enterprise to support the end-to-end supply chain process.
A&M: Are there any examples of goals or significant milestones the command has recently reached?
RADM Skubic: After the first months of NAVSUP’s reform program, the effort is showing significant value and results. In contracting, initial efforts focused on implementing a cross-functional pod structure to speed the requirements definition process to get material on contract for repair faster. The pods, as designed, quickly elevate roadblocks to speed solutions to the customer.
The Digital Accelerator team developed a minimum viable product (MVP) technology solution in just a month to support cross-functional teams of contract specialists, planners, and equipment specialists. This new application allows pod members to complete a digital purchase request checklist to ensure a ‘clean’ requirement is passed to buyers to start the process of getting material on contract. Application updates are in process and continue to be rolled out to support additional functionality.
A Strategic Supplier Management team, focused on readiness recovery, is using a new operating cadence and tools within the F/A-18 Integrated Weapon System Team (IWST) to reduce the number of items degrading fleet readiness. Planners own the process, engage suppliers and hold them accountable for improving their performance. The efforts have resulted in an eight-month improvement of ‘get-well’ dates for the F/A-18 servo cylinder, a component holding down 28 aircraft.
In the Forecasting pillar, planners were empowered with a streamlined planner override policy that standardizes the process for overriding system data, resulting in more accurate forecasts for 300 components. Another effort identified cycle time nodes that were missing from the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) financial system, and added this additional repair time, which will result in more timely repair actions and increased fill rates.
A&M: Sustaining the fleet and providing supply support services for the Navy is undoubtedly an enormous task. What particular challenges does NAVSUP face in carrying out that mission?
RADM Skubic: One of our biggest challenges is supporting weapon systems that are in service over many decades, sometimes well beyond their originally intended life span, while also making sure the industrial base is able to support our needs. NAVSUP is the lead supply support provider in Navy’s Title 10 mission to man, train and equip. Sustaining the fleet by providing supply support in the most efficient and effective way is what our nation demands of us. Because NAVSUP does not own the supply chain from end-to-end, we work hand in hand with our partners, such as DLA and others, to solve complex sustainment challenges. Navy Supply Corps officers interspersed throughout Navy and Joint commands provide a network of supply support experts who play a vital role as they integrate the supply chain.
Our ability to effectively partner and develop sustainment solutions with DLA enables the Navy’s success. I’ve been fortunate to serve within the DLA enterprise on two occasions, at DLA Aviation in Richmond, VA, and in command at DLA Land & Maritime in Columbus, OH, and will always encourage our Supply Corps officers to seek similar assignments.
The largest life-cycle costs of a new weapon system are in the sustainment period. Making the correct logistics investments earlier in the acquisition process can save millions of dollars in the future as a system’s sustainment period can last as long as 30-40 years. NAVSUP works with partners and stakeholders, like NAVSEA and NAVAIR, to help design the support for our platforms and weapon systems, not just support the design. This is why it is vital for NAVSUP team members to be involved early on in the logistics planning efforts and ensure proper future logistics and sustainment support. This is a critical factor in providing warfighters the parts they need at an affordable cost, especially when they will need them for decades to come.
We also need to ensure our support strategies are able to adapt to evolving technologies. As we move toward a future where additive manufacturing (3D printing) capabilities can produce military specification (MILSPEC) grade components, we need to have reliable access to technical data to take advantage of this emerging technology’s potential to enhance supply chains. New technologies have the potential to unlock incredible ways to support our warfighters faster and more efficiently. We must aggressively explore these opportunities and work to adapt them to enhance Navy logistics and sustainment support and, ultimately, improve readiness and lethality.
A&M: As the Commander, NAVSUP and Chief of Supply Corps, do you have any special goals you would personally like to see accomplished in the command and the corps?
RADM Skubic: The NAVSUP enterprise has a global reach to deliver the materials warfighters require for their aircraft, ships, and submarines and their associated weapon systems to fight tonight and sustain tomorrow. Combined with the Supply Corps, NAVSUP has a substantial opportunity to strengthen every corner of the Navy. My goal at NAVSUP is to challenge everyone to have an operational and enterprise mindset. It is particularly important that we have this mindset since NAVSUP Headquarters assumed responsibilities closer to the fleet with the disestablishment of NAVSUP’s Global Logistics Support (GLS) Command. We need to be more operationally focused as we work arm in arm with the Fleet Logistics Centers and the teams that support the warfighter each and every day. The more our capabilities are understood by everyone across the NAVSUP enterprise and Navy, the better we will be able to support the warfighter.
Another of our goals for the Supply Corps is for junior officers to fully understand where they fit into the larger picture of Navy and Joint force logistics. One of the ways we will accomplish this goal is by developing a course for Lieutenant Commanders that focuses on force development, the optimized fleet response plan, acquisition, the integrated supply system, ethics and strategic thinking. We are currently working with Center for Service Support (CSS) to develop the course that the Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS) will deliver to our officers. Topics that blend technical issues with broad leadership principles are critical in developing future Supply Corps leaders.
A&M: Any final thoughts?
RADM Skubic: My focus will always be to ensure our supply community efficiently and effectively does its part to support fleet readiness and lethality, while remaining postured to sustain the fight. Enhancing fleet readiness, continuing NAVSUP’s reform efforts, improving our auditability, and taking care of our people are my priorities as we execute the mission.
We share the Navy’s sense of urgency, and the risk of inaction is great. What we do today and tomorrow will impact the Navy for decades to come. We are boldly challenging ourselves and reforming to increase the speed of delivery. We are uniquely poised to improve the readiness and lethality of our Navy and Joint forces, and we are adapting to become better, more data-informed, managers of risk.
Auditability is important as it directly supports our readiness by exposing risks and challenging our current operating assumptions. Inventory accuracy is at the heart of what we do as supply chain managers, and the Navy is looking to us to solve these challenges … and we will. Audit provides transparency and assurance that we are using the taxpayer’s dollars appropriately and efficiently. Reform and audit will complement one another as we improve our business processes.
Our most remarkable asset remains our people, and we must challenge and take care of our Navy supply teams around the globe with the right culture, right training, and right focus. We rely on our supervisors to proactively develop our future enterprise leaders. Together, we will manage a culture of integrity and trust, allowing fearless conversations both about organization and employee performance, and embracing innovation. Our people do outstanding work every day in support of the Navy and our warfighters, and we must recognize and celebrate their accomplishments.
NAVSUP has a long history of solving complex, logistical problems, and we will continue to step forward as the trusted agent to those counting on us to not only succeed, but excel. We will always be ready to serve, ready to sustain the fight, and “Ready for Sea.”