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​Spare parts are the biggest issue the Defense Logistics Agency faces in supporting the Air Force, said DLA Director Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek at AFA's Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2014. Staff photo by Kristina Parrill

​The Defense Logistics Agency’s biggest supply chain issue regarding the Air Force deals with spare parts, because “if [airmen] don’t have all the parts, they can’t fix an engine,” said DLA Director Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek on Tuesday. Understanding that, he said he ordered his subordinate handling that issue to buy enough to meet the Air Force’s needs. As a result, “parts support to the Air Force is much better than it was,” said Harnitchek at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Providing logistics support in the current chaotic security environment is much harder than during the Cold War, but DLA must do it with less money, which requires “an absolute insistence on basic business,” he said. Major savings were achieved by shifting from the military-specific JP-8 aviation fuel to commercial jet fuel, which costs less and greatly expands the supplier base, he said. Harnitchek also emphasized the importance of commercial aircraft and ships to DLA and US Transportation Command, noting that commercial carriers have more heavy-lift cargo airplanes and freighters than the Air Force and Navy, respectively. “That’s what takes the nation to war,” he said of the commercial assets.