NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support Takes Strategic Look at Supplier Management

By Jeff Landis, Office of Corporate Communications, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support

With its eye on developing better processes and responsive end-to-end supply chain management for naval readiness and lethality, NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) recently developed a special project for Strategic Supplier Management (SSM).

Although it began as engagements and meetings with key commercial industry vendors (called strategic industry engagements), the SSM concept has evolved into a robust effort to partner with industry. NAVSUP WSS is cultivating partnerships with some of the top commercial aerospace and defense companies to better address some of the supply issues affecting readiness.

Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, commander of NAVSUP WSS (second from left), and Vice Commander, Lynn Kohl, (far left), join with NAVSUP WSS staff for a strategic industry engagement with defense contractor executives. –photo by Madeline Klebe


The intent is to drive executive-level interactions, create a cadence of routine engagements, and improve responsiveness and accountability across the Navy supply chain. When it comes to naval fleet readiness and the need to be “ready to fight tonight,” having the parts on hand is critical. As the Navy’s only end-to-end supply chain manager, NAVSUP WSS is creating a sense of urgency, especially with parts considered the “top degraders” of aviation and maritime readiness.

According to Brian Keeley, Special Projects director for NAVSUP WSS, the SSM effort will pay large dividends for the command with greater focus, engagement, and participation in developing long-term partnerships.

“We’ve been conducting strategic industry engagements successfully for more than two years now, and this effort is an evolution of that concept,” said Keeley. “This is a strategic shift away from handshaking and photo opportunities to real, business-focused, readiness-based conversations to drive change. The goal is to develop meaningful partnerships with industry, so we’re both focused on meeting supply deliverables, engaging on delivery schedules, and really developing actual long-term partnerships and relationships, which take time.”

“Previous engagements might have only focused on a particular part of an aircraft, but now we have created an operational cadence and an extra set of tools for our command’s Integrated Weapons Support Teams (IWSTs) where the conversations are more deliberate and touch on a whole host of supply issues. Our goal is to reduce the number of items degrading fleet readiness and look for strategic opportunities within supply, contracting, and logistics to meet the warfighters’ requirements,” Keeley said.

Keeley added that a lot of industry partners want a longer-term relationship, and NAVSUP WSS is pinpointing methods to foster those partnerships through purposeful, routine discussions and engagement with the business development teams, the profit/loss owners, and key executive leadership. “We want to create a rhythm, institute a strategic framework, and better outline the supply issues we face,” he added.

“Then we create intentional plans and objectives to fix these issues – with goals and outcomes – without duplicating efforts of the IWSTs or bottlenecking the process.”

Through SSM, engaging with industry partners can provide an opportunity for collaborative innovation and supply chain problem solving. The SSM is also a good forum to discuss maintenance challenges, gaps in the supply chain, and evaluating trends in demands and delays in deliverables to Navy customers. It can also enable collaborative efforts toward reducing unfilled customer orders, creating “get-well” dates for production and delivery, and can lead to performance based logistics contracts. It also helps private industry gain a fuller understanding and appreciation for the significance of the Navy’s supply issues affecting naval readiness and working together to fix problems with a sense of urgency.

“It’s important to seize the momentum we’ve gained through our strategic industry engagements,” said Karen Fenstermacher, SSM director for NAVSUP. “We are in an era of rapid change and reform toward warfighter readiness, and SSM will help us achieve greater understanding, appreciation and accountability toward that goal.”

According to Keeley, the SSM program is still evolving, and the goal is to expand to other industry partners to create an enduring partnership and cooperation, and to work together toward the same goals. Those goals include identifying all of the troublesome supply issues, improving supplier performance and delivery timelines, and concentrating on the market basket of parts that have the most impact toward readiness. Other goals include improving the demand and supply response time and, eventually, establishing more long-term contracts that incorporate data analytics for continuous improvement.

Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer is committed to restoring readiness and increasing the capacity and capability of the fleet to meet the Nation’s security needs. By working together and in stride with industry to help fix supply chain issues, NAVSUP WSS is leaning forward in its strategic reform efforts.

Summer 2019