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Team illuminates supply risks that impact defense

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Just a few years ago, shortages of epic proportions impacted individuals across the United States, leading to headline stories on newscasts across the nation.

From toilet paper to lithium-ion batteries, vehicles, furniture and more, these supply chain issues occurred due to a myriad of factors, including labor and raw material shortages due to COVID, weather and stock-piling by consumers.

Now, imagine if shortages were to occur with things such as bullets, aircraft parts or other warfighter gear used in support of military capabilities. As essential as the supply chain is to everyday life for Americans, it is even more important to our national defense.

The Air Force Materiel Command Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) program team plans ahead for any and all weaknesses that can hinder military capabilities. The team identifies and investigates vulnerabilities, reports them and develops plans for mitigation.

“Senior leaders now truly understand that product support and sustainment directly impact readiness,” said Maj. Gen. C. McCauley von Hoffman, AFMC Director of Logistics, Civil Engineering. Force Protection and Nuclear Integration.  “We aren’t going anywhere or employing anything unless weapons systems are healthy, and we have the supplies and equipment available and positioned in the right places.”

The SCRM network understands the criticality of enabling a high degree of assurance that mission critical components are available, reliable and resistant to risks throughout their lifecycle.

“We are not in a resource flush environment,” said Mike Hoover, AFMC Team Lead and Subject Matter Expert. “There are many ways the supply chain is hampered, and we have to be proactive in our approach.”

SCRM is not a novel idea. Logisticians have been preaching the importance of supply chain vulnerability since the Middle Ages, but only recently has it become the focus of senior leaders across the Air Force.

Traditionally, the military has seen combat power as the tooth, and all the support behind it as the tail; that tail is essential to sustaining combat strength, military power and maintaining the nuclear enterprise.

“Combat is a team challenge, not just an operational challenge,” von Hoffman continued. “It takes accurate prepositioning of assets, persistent mission generation, and supply chain resiliency.”

“I love it when I hear, not just Gen. Richardson, but other MAJCOM commanders speaking in those terms,” she added.

The SCRM team advises, gives suggestions and acts as a subject matter expert.

“There are multiple categories of risk,” said Senior Master Sgt. Julie Maddox, AFMC Supply Chain Risk Manager. “Vulnerabilities can occur naturally in the marketplace or environment, or can be threats from adversaries.”

Shipment and transportation delays due to extreme weather, labor shortages, raw material contamination, market dynamics, and company closings and buyouts are very common, and they have a huge effect on logistics.

While enemy threats are less likely, they also have tremendous impact on the supply chain, and ultimately the warfighter, especially when the supplier is a sole source.

Though there are many ways the SCRM team works to mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities, one used often is a proactive process called “illumination.” In an illumination, specific companies or parts are targeted for a thorough review. The team delves into the financials, ownership and other business dynamics from first, second and third tier suppliers, looking for anomalies.

An example of a recent, successful illumination involved a modification that was being contracted for a weapons system program upgrade. The research found that a particular software used in the configuration by the supplier had direct ownership ties to Russian state-owned enterprises.

The SCRM team was able to convey that Foreign Ownership Control or Influence (FOCI) information to the program managers, enabling them to choose a solution that presented less risk to a premier weapons system.

And the work does not stop there. Information is shared with other organizations to refine and improve SCRM processes and capabilities, allowing for better and more timely future decisions.

The SCRM team shares information not only within AFMC, but also with the Air Force enterprise, the Department of Defense and beyond, including the FBI and Homeland Security. They encourage collaboration and uniting fragmented initiatives.

“We are here so the programs are fully empowered to manage their total risk portfolio,” said Hoover. “It’s imperative that everyone is aware of vulnerabilities early in the process.”

The team publishes the AFMC SCRM Pulse, a monthly email newsletter that features the latest unclassified supply chain risk management news impacting the U.S. Government, DoD, and industrial base supply chains. The news brief incorporates only open-source news articles to educate SCRM practitioners and anyone else who wants to expand their knowledge on the subject.

People can use the SCRM workflow ( to subscribe to the SCRM Pulse and inquire about future SCRM training opportunities.


Sidebar:  Airmen are not the only ones involved in the risk management process. Suppliers also need to learn to mitigate the threats they may encounter. An opportunity for small businesses to learn more about SCRM and how they can help with the challenges associated with it is now available.

A Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) small business outreach event is scheduled for Thursday, September 1, at 1 p.m. ET at the Wright Brothers Institute in Dayton, Ohio. Registration information is available at .