Securing the Supply Chain

BY LT. CMDR. MICHAEL KIDD Deputy Navy National Account Manager, Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters

Supply Corps officers Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann and Lt. Cmdr. Michael Kidd are helping develop the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) supply chain security strategy. DLA is the supply chain integrator across Department of Defense (DoD), and as such, securing the supply chain from mine to customer, through demilitarization and disposal, is of utmost importance.

DLA Director Lt. Gen. Williams charged the agency with developing a supply chain security strategy that cuts across agency stovepipes.  “As the nation’s combat support agency responsible for end-to-end management of nine supply chains supporting the warfighter, DLA has an inherent imperative to ensure we have the proper detection, protection, redundancy, and resilience built into our systems, processes, infrastructure, and people to ensure continued support to the warfighter,” said Williams.

Dremann and Kidd are key members of the team marshaling efforts across the 26,000-person agency. Be it construction material, medicine, or aircraft parts, there must be a system to ensure disruptions—natural, business or nefarious—do not prevent the delivery of materiel to the warfighter.

The threats are everywhere; cyber-attacks can cripple portions of the supply chain due to the interconnectedness of technology at every stage. Nefarious nation states or fraudulent businesses can introduce counterfeit parts into supply chains that may find their way onto ships or aircraft. Labor disputes and obsolescence cripples production lines, while hurricanes and earthquakes disrupt transportation. DLA is working to increase supply chain transparency, and quickly identify and assess, report and mitigate threats, vulnerabilities and disruptions to the global supply chain. Only by attacking the problem at the enterprise level can the DoD achieve the resiliency to ensure the warfighting customer has the materiel they need, when they need it.  According to Dremann, understanding where the soft underbelly of logistics lies, is a key component in the process. “We must continuously look at the entire supply chain, identify where the vulnerabilities are, and mitigate them.” DLA is taking an offensive role in supply chain security by conducting aggressive market intelligence campaigns, and adding DNA markers to microelectronics, among other initiatives.  Strengthening the defense game includes increased use of business decision analytics that use big-data and algorithms to look for hidden risk profiles, vendor network mapping that dives into opaque sub-vendor networks, and strengthening protections of technical data.  Finally, the agency is building resiliency into operations by establishing redundant capabilities, hardening key systems, and refining continuity of operations plans.

Integrated Logistics Systems Intern Lt. Lawatha Cherenfro took the initiative to participate in the strategy development process. “This has been a fantastic opportunity to be involved in global-level strategic planning as a junior officer,” says Cherenfro. “The ability to see how the DoD is maintaining data access and integrity, and assessing vendor integrity at a global level, would be impossible at another command.” Protecting data is not limited to government systems; vendors and sub-vendors are cyber-targets, and attacks can cripple delivery of critical parts. By combining aggressive monitoring, robust procedures, and solid contract language, it is more likely that part delivery will not be impacted due to data breaches.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. For a logistics agency, nearly everything DLA does is critical to the supply chain, from the infrastructure, to the systems, to the people – all are critical components of delivering product, and all must be part of a security plan. As strategies develop, it’s clear that Navy Supply Corps officers will be a key component in developing and executing the plan, and maintaining a responsive and resilient supply chain.