Defense Logistics Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek spoke about communicating with the agency’s partners to improve processes and save costs at the annual meeting of the National Council of Textile Organizations March 25.
Harnitchek told more than 200 CEOs, presidents and managers from the textile industry that the Department of Defense has a role in maintaining the industrial base as military spending decreases.
“It is important that we, the DoD, keep the industry viable. Even if we have to pay a little more, it makes sense to maintain an industry base that we need, because who knows where we’ll be in 10 years and what the requirements will be,” he said.
The organization requested the admiral’s insight on the state of DLA and the current fiscal environment and how it affects the textile industry.
“This is a critical time for our industry,” said William Jasper, NCTO chairman of the board and CEO of Unifi Manufacturing, Inc. “We are pleased to have Admiral Harnitchek talk with us today. He is the highest ranking official inside the administration to chat with our group since former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger back in the Reagan days.”
The admiral touted improved communication as the way forward, pointing to initiatives DLA has undertaken to do just that.
“We’ve expanded our Captains of Industry meetings and added several other meetings throughout the year. We’ve provided forecasting to the best of our ability and an ombudsman at the request of the industry,” he said. “We do this because decisions about what we need to do or want to do come at our level. Communication at our level is what makes things happen.”
One example the admiral used to illustrate process change was the agency’s backing away from reverse auctions with the clothing and textile industry. In reverse auctions, sellers bid online for contracts. By allowing sellers to view the lowest offer and bid against it, the process creates competition between firms, which drives prices down. A 2013 Deloitte Study recommended awarding contracts to the company with the lowest price technically acceptable bid.
“Reverse auctions might benefit us in the short term, but the independent study and you, the industry, told us that the long-term effects could actually diminish the industry, so we changed it,” Harnitchek said.
Using this example, Harnitchek encouraged the audience members and other industry professionals to let the DLA know when a process doesn’t work.
“We provide these discussion forums because our ego is not tied up in our decisions,” he said. “If any decision we make is not the right one, we’ll reverse it. We want the industry to be profitable. We want a strategy for acquisition that works, and we’ll get there together. Sometimes there is a real vacuum at the executive level, but if something isn’t right, don’t take the first no. It may be a matter of talking to the right person.”