U.S. Navy strengthens supply chain during COVID-19 Pandemic

March 25, 2020

COVID-19 is affecting operations and supply chains around the world. For the Navy and Marine Corps, the virus presents a critical and unknown risk to readiness. Since the beginning of this crisis, NAVSUP, or Naval Supply Systems Command, has been proactively working with the commercial supply base to assess and mitigate risks to ensure uninterrupted service and parts flow to the fleet.

NAVSUP’s response has been strengthened by ongoing enterprise-wide Reform efforts. Over the past two years, NAVSUP has reviewed and modified the processes used to manage the supply base in order to drive greater efficiency and insight. As part of that effort, the command has rolled out powerful analytical tools across the organization.

For instance, NAVSUP has deployed the recently piloted Control Tower to gauge the impact that supply chain disruptions could have on operations. The Control Tower aggregates data sources from across the naval enterprise to present an end-to-end view of inventory levels and supply health of spare and repair parts. Through this aggregated view, the NAVSUP team easily determined high-priority parts and works with both organic and commercial partners to escalate and resolve performance and delivery barriers. NAVSUP uses the data to work together with fleet, Program Executive Offices and Systems Commands to elevate issues that occur within the sustainment life cycle of the Navy’s platforms and systems. Going forward, NAVSUP plans to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to strengthen scenario-planning capabilities.

NAVSUP also quickly sprang into action to shore up its commercial supply base. As soon as President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, March 13, NAVSUP stood up a cross-functional war room focused on evaluating and addressing vulnerabilities across the spare and repair parts supply chain. Given teleworking mandates, the war room was designed from inception as a virtual team. In addition to representatives from the weapons systems support teams across NAVSUP, the virtual war room includes Defense Contract Management Agency and Defense Logistics Agency representatives to drive cross-functional problem solving and decision making.

As a foundation of the war room effort, NAVSUP’s strategic supplier management team launched a weekly survey to the entire commercial supply base to understand and identify emerging risks and challenges starting on Monday, March 16.

During the first week of surveys, NAVSUP heard from multiple suppliers confused about the patchwork of local and state regulations and how they would impact operations. When the Department of Defense issued guidance on Friday, March 20, NAVSUP rapidly communicated updates to their entire supply base. NAVSUP’s strategic supplier management team has been in constant correspondence with suppliers since the national emergency declaration.

In accordance with the DoD’s guidance that the defense industrial base is a critical infrastructure sector, NAVSUP will continue to work with suppliers towards an expectation of no disruptions. As COVID-19 continues to impact business operations, high-risk sites will be flagged and action plans will be quickly put in place.

According to Karen Fenstermacher, the executive for strategic initiatives at NAVSUP, “We knew the challenges our supply base would be facing were going to be varied. Since launching the survey last week, my team has been contacted by hundreds of suppliers and is in active discussions with suppliers across the United States and around the world to ensure minimal service disruptions.”

With deployments of the hospital ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, the Navy will be on the front lines helping the United States combat the COVID-19 pandemic. NAVSUP is working around the clock to ensure frontline personnel are fully supported and readiness levels can be maintained across the Navy and Marine Corps.

We are all in this battle together. NAVSUP encourages any suppliers experiencing operational challenges and hardships to flag them in the weekly survey and to continue to proactively engage with NAVSUP.