Logistics and Distribution Catching Up with Committee Chair Shiju Zacharia
The Logistics and Distribution Committee, formerly known as the Military Distribution Committee, is one of the six functional committees within NDTA. This past January, Mr. Shiju Zacharia, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Crowley Solutions, took over as Chair of the Committee. DTJ recently sat down with Shiju to hear more about the Committee and what he views as the top issues facing industry.
DTJ: To start, I hear there will be and, in some cases, already are some significant changes happening to the Committee. What can you tell us about that?
SHIJU ZACHARIA: We have made some exciting changes in the past year. First, we renamed the Committee from the “Military Distribution Committee” to the “Logistics and Distribution Committee” to better align with today’s concept of the Joint Logistics Enterprise. The Logistics and Distribution Committee is comprised of thought leaders from the Defense Industrial Base who are focused on helping the DOD [Department of Defense] analyze supply chain vulnerabilities, develop mitigation strategies, and build resilience against future shocks to the supply chain. Under the Committee, we have established four Subcommittees: Industrial Base, Energy, Technology, and Finance. Specifically, for this year, our Subcommittees have been looking at the health of the industrial base, last tactical mile distribution of fuel, using data to create operational advantages, and achieving full financial auditability. Finally, we revised our charter, which had not been updated in almost 15 years to capture the changes we have made this year.
DTJ: You touched on this a little already, but could you tell me more about what people and organizations comprise the Committee’s membership?
SHIJU ZACHARIA: Our Committee has active members from more than 50 industry partners and commercial carriers. This expansive view of the transportation and logistics market segments from some of the best and brightest in the field comprises an incredible asset to DOD’s logistics leaders.
We always want more experience and knowledge at the table and encourage other leaders to join our team. One field we specifically need more participation is among active representatives of the government. We’d like to see an increase in service members and federal civilian employees and leaders joining our ranks. Because our core focus is to ensure we are responsive to defense and civilian needs, the deeper and more interwoven our membership becomes, our ability to work together and ensure the readiness of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise strengthens.
DTJ: Supply chains are being stretched and disrupted throughout the world. What are some of the key issues the Committee is working on now?
SHIJU ZACHARIA: Our nation’s military needs supply chain management that is nimble and resilient to support our Warfighters. Increasingly, customers in the government, defense, and commercial sectors find advantages as well as challenges in the realms of sustainability and technology. We can and must find new ways to leverage data analytics and tech to support defense needs in the US, as well as our global theaters.
One issue in particular that needs our full attention is cybersecurity of the Defense Industrial Base. Our members and industry partners understand that cyber hardening must extend to every member of the global distribution network if our warfighting supply chains are to succeed in a contested environment. As competition with our near-peer adversaries increases, we need to focus on public-private partnerships to develop future technologies, like quantum computing and blockchain, to ensure our economic and military power in the future. Strengthening our Defense Industrial Base to expand manufacturing using nearshoring or allied countries partner network will be key to ensure that we have a sustainable supply chain for key products. The disruptions we see today underscore how important supply chain risk management and resilience is to our national security. The Committee is focused on helping the DOD develop strategies and build resilience and operational advantage and transparency.
DTJ: How can the Committee help NDTA, the industry, and DOD work together?
SHIJU ZACHARIA: I have heard some people refer to the NDTA as USTRANSCOM’s [US Transportation Command] ‘fifth component.’ That spirit genuinely exists in the collaboration and open dialogue that occurs between industry and defense leaders in NDTA meetings. We can bring the best practices and needs on both sides to serve USTRANSCOM and DLA [the Defense Logistics Agency] to leverage technology, metrics and KPIs, and supply chain visibility and strength. Our group can provide demonstrable commercial results that help our nation’s defense leaders focus on their core mission by providing foresight and guidance through our partnership.
Just as the Committee can foster better understanding in the private sector of defense supply chain management needs and dynamics, we also can leverage the expertise of the private sector on emerging efficiencies and best practices in commercial supply chains that, when properly applied, can deliver measurable results and improvements across the service branches and related civilian agencies. To deploy and sustain a fighting force, the DOD is largely reliant on commercial carriers that comprise much of the capability within the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise. Coming together in NDTA allows USTRANSCOM and the Joint Logistics Enterprise an open venue to engage industry leaders directly and ensure the continued health of this critical industrial base.
DTJ: Shiju, thank you for your time today. Before we end, is there anything else you would like to share with the DTJ audience?
SHIJU ZACHARIA: I would like to thank my Vice Chair, George Allen, for his great counsel this past year. I’d also like to thank my Subcommittee Co-Chairs Guy Beougher, Sean Thomas, Angela Hemphill, J.C. Millard, Jon Kaskin, Ken Dowd, Simone Reba, and Jeffrey Derrick. Finally, I would like to thank VADM Andy Brown for his leadership and this opportunity to serve.
By Sharon Lo, Managing Editor, DTJ & The Source