By Edgewood Chemical Biological CenterDecember 15, 2010
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- As the engineering support organization for the transfer of most consumable items to the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Rock Island Arsenal is establishing dialogue between the organizations.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure called for the transfer of most consumable items to the DLA. The purpose is to enhance the effectiveness of logistics support to operational joint and expeditionary forces.
Since the DLA performs the item management and procurement of the consumable items, communication had to be opened between DLA and ECBC, as the engineering support organization for the items.
"Dialogue with DLA did not start easily," said Nan Ramsey, engineering associate director and site manager at ECBC Rock Island. "When ECBC-RI first began working with DLA, we discovered there was very little understanding of Army engineering elements within the DLA's processes."
Ramsey said the DLA uses a different approach for procurement than the Army traditionally uses, which typically uses an Integrated Product Team for the acquisition. An example is the integration of ECBC employees serving as members of the IPT providing advice on market research and company capabilities, advice on needed testing and inspection and other technical areas to the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armament Command.
"When we started talking to DLA, we expected to continue to participate on procurement IPTs. What we found was that they did not use the same IPT approach for acquisition as that used by the Army. They use automated processes where item coding triggered certain actions, allowing them to procure as many as 200,000 items per month," Ramsey said. "We soon realized it was not going to be business as usual - we had a lot to learn."
Upon discovering there were similar questions and uncertainty regarding transfer processes among the other Army research, development and engineering centers and the 21 Armed Services' Engineering Support Activities across the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, ECBC organized a meeting that would allow the Army to learn from the Services who had transferred many of their consumable items in previous years.
"The next step then was to meet with DLA and discuss our concerns," Ramsey said. "Getting all the Services together with DLA was instrumental to understand the processes and resolve our concerns."
Some of the key issues addressed during that initial meeting in 2008 provided ECBC with the ability to better plan for the workforce by getting funding commitments from DLA in advance.
Three years and many meetings later, with the continued perseverance and extensive coordination by representatives from ECBC, the Army and other ESAs, including the Army Materiel Command, a signed agreement on the funding is in hand. Additionally, a new Joint Engineering Support Instruction, which has already been signed at the three star-level in the Army, is in coordination.
"These efforts were essential since we have just completed the support to TACOM in the transfer of almost 700 chemical biological items to DLA for management," Ramsey said.
ECBC team leader Nancy Lyford admits they are still working some of the kinks out in the processes, but she says ECBC and the DLA have come a long way in the last three years.
"Largely due to Nan's persistent efforts, we've been able to bring everyone together in one room to talk about similar problems within the transfer and work to resolve many of them," Lyford said. "The older I get, I learn communication is key to everything."