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EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Serving Line


July 2012
Education Is Too Valuable

Clearly, the military's plan to navigate a smooth path through the federal fiscal turbulence involves establishing stronger partnerships with industry to support service members.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) held a roundtable in March with 14 prime vendors as part of its Enterprise Cost Reduction program. The discussion explored efficiencies to reduce operational expenses, as well as the acquisition price of items procured.

But there is more to a successful military partnership with industry than merely wholesale commerce relations. Both sides frequently cooperate in product development, setting specifications, developing packaging and determining shelf-life regulations.

Conferences and training play a vital role in that partnership. The military logistics food community comes together to share knowledge and experience the commercial and operational food choices available. Also, service members engage in training to sharpen skills and enhance performance.

DLA Troop Support's Worldwide Customer Conference and Food Show, the granddaddy of the military training conferences, brings together more than a thousand military customers and manufacturers.

Typically scheduled every 18 months or so, the Worldwide Customer Conference and Food Show is on hiatus until at least 2014, leaving a more than two-year gap since it was last held in August 2011.

Filling that void, however, is the Armed Forces Food and Beverage Workshop. This year's workshop, which includes a wide variety of training topics plus a food show, is expected to draw an estimated 350 food and beverage personnel representing all branches of service.

Another is the Research and Development Associates for Military Food and Packaging (R&DA) Spring Meeting and Exhibition, which also brings military and manufacturer partners together to learn from each other and take better care of warfighters.

These, and the many other opportunities that bring the military food community together with subsistence manufacturers for training and sharing ideas, become all the more important to maintaining strong partnerships in the current, uncertain federal fiscal climate.

If federal lawmakers and military leadership are serious about building partnerships with industry, then the purse strings need to be loosened on the funding necessary for organization of, and travel to, these training opportunities.

Instead, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum released in May reduces fiscal 2013 travel expenses by 30 percent from the Department of Defense's (DoD) fiscal 2010 baseline; and establishes standard, tiered approval levels for conference spending and reporting mechanisms.

To successfully navigate through the federal fiscal turbulence, the military must be committed to preserving funding for the training conferences that bring the DoD food community together, or risk limiting the resulting benefits and advantages for service members.