Stacy A. Cummings is the General Manager, NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA).
AMCHAM: Please introduce NSPA and its mission to our readership.
STACY A. CUMMINGS: NSPA is the lead organisation for multinational acquisition, support and sustainment to NATO nations.
Since its establishment in 1958, NSPA acquires, operates, and maintains equipment and services through an unbiased link between industry and the nations. NSPA has been “Support AND Procurement” for 10 years.
NSPA is a customer-funded agency, operating on a “no profit – no loss” basis. The Agency provides a platform for multinational cooperation between industry and governments enabling NATO and Allied Nations obtain the best capabilities in all domains at the best value, achieving economies of scale and leveraging the most advanced technology available.
NSPA is therefore an efficient, effective and responsive platform for durable partnerships with industry and governments to support the mission of NATO, Allied Nations and Partners. The principles of cooperation, transparency and trust nurture this mutually beneficial relationship between industry and NSPA.
This link between industry and the nations includes multinational acquisition of complex systems, such as aircraft, helicopters and autonomous/uncrewed systems, to the provision of supplies such as fuel, spare parts and ammunition, or services such as maintenance of radars for air defence, or deployable infrastructure, transportation, medical and catering services.
With regards to deployable infrastructure and services, these are also used for humanitarian purposes. My team and I are proud to have been supporting activities such as the construction and management of three temporary villages in Türkiye capable to host up to 8000 people displaced by the earthquakes that hit the region in February 2023.
Please introduce yourself so our readers better know your life story and the values which underscore your decision-making approach.
I joined NSPA as the general manager in September 2021.
Before coming to NATO, I spent my entire career as federal employee in the US. I started my career working for the Navy in Logistics and Acquisition. I worked on the V-22 and F-18 aircraft programs. I oversaw technical services such as technical manuals, flight manuals, engineering drawings and engineering technical support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation. I also worked in domains such as Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence systems.
After graduating from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now called the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy), I joined the Senior Executive Service at the Department of Transportation as the Executive Director of the Federal Railroad Administration.
I returned to the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2016 to oversee the delivery of Health IT programs to the Military Health System, to include the $10B program to modernize the Electronic Health Record, which is now a common system for the US Military, Coast Guard and Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
In my former role at the DoD, I was the senior career executive in the Department for Acquisition – the Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition. It was in this role that, for seven months of the Biden Administration, I was asked to perform the duties of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.
Learning and development are highly valued in the DoD, so I had access to formal and informal technical and leadership development throughout my career. I strive to be an inclusive leader who makes decisions after considering diverse viewpoints. I also value empowerment, which is only possible when an organization has established and communicated a strategy that includes a unifying mission and aspirational vision. We have done so at NSPA: our 2023-2027 Strategic Framework was approved by our governance body in December of 2022. We are now executing that strategy. You can read our strategy on our website where you can also find job vacancies!
There is a respected saying that “soldiers fight wars but logistics wins wars”. Please explain the details which underly this expression to our readership and confirm the ways in which you and your team both agree and disagree with this statement
I’ve also heard this quote, attributed to General Omar Bradley, “Amateurs talk strategy, Professionals talk logistics” a lot since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and NATO’s actions to strengthen deterrence and defence.
I’ve always considered myself to be a logistician – I even majored in logistics at Penn State. It’s all about logistics! NSPA, and its predecessor Agency NAMSA, is historically a logistics organization. NATO allies need to be able to move, sustain and reinforce forces, to include equipment and defense systems.
NATO Secretary General recently said “There is no Deterrence without industry” and we, at NSPA, provide that critical link to industry to assure logistics support, life cycle management and sustainment and to acquire defense systems, services and supplies without which credible deterrence and defense is not possible.
Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has been described as a war of logistics or a war of warehouses. More than any other time in recent history, the importance of investing in readiness and resiliency is clear.
Our understanding is that NSPA functions on the basis that collective logistics management is more efficient, more successful and less costly than each nation in the alliance providing support on their own. Please explain the accuracy and problems associated with this statement, especially with regards to the weapon system partnerships your team manages for alliance nations.
The new security environment has further highlighted the need for multinational capability cooperation to deliver greater interoperability and commonality. We therefore anticipate nations moving towards collective requirements for supplies and services: this is at the core of NSPA’s capabilities and mandate.
For example, our Support Partnerships are a multinational cooperation mechanism established on the initiative of two or more NATO nations wishing to organise common support and services activities. This support structure is a distinctive feature of NSPA, offering a ready to execute legal framework for nations to cooperate and benefit from shared requirements. Participating nations provide governance and guidance, whereas NSPA acquires capabilities and manages nations’ lifecycle requirements.
The consolidation of requirements provides economies of scale, reduces costs and logistics footprint, and offers additional operational benefits.
As a military alliance, interoperability between the weapon systems of the difference alliance members is important. Why is this a problem, how do you work to achieve this interoperability and what challenges do your customer nations have in achieving effective results in this regard?
Multinational procurement promotes not just interoperability, but also commonality between our armed forces. When militaries from different member states can seamlessly operate together, it enhances our collective strength and reinforces the cohesion of our Alliance. Common equipment, standardised procedures, and joint training exercises become more feasible when supported by shared procurement initiatives.
This interoperability and commonality not only facilitate military operations but also strengthen the bonds of trust and camaraderie among our armed forces, which is essential to NATO’s deterrence and defence posture.
What does “supply chain management” involve and what are the successes and opportunities for your team and the participating member nations being effective dealing with supply change management challenges?
Actions to secure critical supply chains are essential to maintaining the Alliance’s military advantage, by ensuring that the Alliance develops its military capabilities free from competitors’ and potential adversaries’ licit or illicit influence.
Resilience of critical supply chains enables credible deterrence and defence, including for goods and services that are not strictly military in nature but would be vital to support national and collective defence.
The Defence Production Action Plan, endorsed by NATO leaders at the Vilnius Summit in July 2023, underlines the importance of having a clear understanding of defence industry supply chain issues and highlights the need to consider the resilience of defence-critical supply chains as the Alliance seeks to identify measures to contribute to increasing production capacity.
In civilian manufacturing, “just-in-time logistics” is considered an important efficiency driver to manage costs. In managing military procurement and logistics, please explain if the same logic applies or why the rules and requirements of military logistics are different?
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the extent to which critical supply chains are vulnerable in a highly interconnected global economy as global supply chains were generally designed around the principle of ‘just-in-time’ and as affordable as possible.
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine once again brought the realities of high intensity conflict into focus and made it evident that “just in time” just doesn’t work in the current security context.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you and your team face in ensuring a robust and effective alliance logistics supply chain to keep NATO strong in the face of future challenges!
Nations are indeed facing the urgent and challenging requirement to rebuild their defence industrial bases in order to maintain legacy platforms, to include munitions and ammunition. Despite undergoing the largest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, key vulnerabilities across the Alliance’s capabilities have been brought to light by the war in Ukraine.
The defence industrial base, across NATO Nations, cannot replace military equipment at the rate at which it is being consumed in Ukraine and, therefore, Nations are not able to efficiently resupply their own stockpiles. This situation threatens NATO’s defence and deterrence posture as military readiness degrades, putting at risk the Alliance’s ability to deter future aggression.
The new war in Europe has therefore boosted the Alliance’s resolve to address defence and security, not only more urgently, but also jointly. In turn, this has further highlighted the pressing need for multinational capability coordination to deliver greater interoperability. To effectively address these challenges, it is vital that we enhance our military capabilities through modernisation, innovation, and most urgently: coordinated joint procurement.
NSPA is well placed to address the Alliance’s new and urgent requirements. I have mentioned our Support Partnership as a case in point for the proven framework we make available to Nations to address such requirements. However, no framework can exist without the adequate support structure. To tackle in a sustainable way the substantial demands we currently experience, we are recruiting additional personnel, streamlining processes, updating our policies and seeking sustained investments to execute programmes. This will ensure the Agency remains efficient, effective and responsive in its support and enablement of the Alliance.