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News | Oct. 16, 2018

Supplier summit answers call for communication

By DCMA Western Regional Command

The game of telephone involves a group of people whispering a message from one person to the next. The entertaining part is to hear how the original words have changed and distorted once it reaches the last player. While it is a great game for family reunions, it is not a good business practice for the defense industry.

Defense Contract Management Agency Los Angeles hosted a supplier summit Aug. 2 to help improve direct communication between the contractors, suppliers and the Department of Defense.

“Los Angeles is unique, we have over 600 contractors to manage, and most of them are very small scale,” said DCMA Los Angeles director Kenneth Pates. “We have a vibrant legacy from the World War II defense industry boom that basically created the California we recognize today. The small contractors sometimes don’t get the kind of attention larger scale players like Raytheon or Northrop Grumman enjoy.”

The opportunity to meet with small business representatives as a group is a rare opportunity, according to Pates. “Typically, DCMA relies on interactions conducted one at a time,” he said. “This (supplier summit) is an educational exchange and a meeting of as many minds as we can convince to brave LA traffic to come together and talk about the challenges we face and see what kind of solutions we can build together.”

Pates’ office heard of similar agency events in Pittsburgh and Springfield, Illinois. He thought his group could benefit from the same town hall format to promote warfighter and production readiness. The event had 80 contractors in attendance and included guest speakers from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Logistics Agency and the California Air National Guard.

“We focused on common problems different agencies, departments and services deal with when interacting with contractors, and the best solutions to avoid these problems,” said A.J. Blewett, lead industrial specialist with DCMA Los Angeles. Blewett, who was tasked as the coordinator for the summit, received assistance from industrial specialists Danielle Martinez, Yant Chirino and administrative contract officer Lila Mia. “We went through each stage of contract administration and presented best practices for each area. Everything from transportation problems (and) government property to misleading contract language, said Blewett.”

For many attendees, the summit clarified who they needed to contact for assistance. “We can’t do our job if there’s a wall between the contractors we manage and ourselves,” Blewett said.

“Events like this, and increased communication in general, break down those walls so we can work together to solve the problems shared by everyone in the defense industry.”

The effort paid off. For Donald Bedell, a guest contractor, gaining a better understanding of the complexity of contract management was valuable. “I had no idea that DCMA has so many challenges, and it helps explain the other side of the story.”

Event participants completed surveys so that DCMA Los Angeles could determine if attendees felt the summit was beneficial. “We were asking contractors, people for whom time is money, to spend the morning with us, instead of moving product,” Blewett said. “We knew there needed to be something in it for them.”

Almost unanimously, the contractor’s survey responses expressed that just meeting with the team was worth the trip. “Before this event we were unaware of so much,” said contractor Rosie Salcedo. “It was good to be able to find the actual people we work with resolving our issues and talk to them in person.”