NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) International Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and Partnerships Director Jeff Heron recently won the American Society of Naval Engineers 2021 Clifford G. Geiger (Naval Logistics Award) for his career-long achievements.
“When you look across [Heron’s] career, there is a sense of breadth and depth to his expertise and experience that speaks volumes,” said NAVAIR Sustainment Group Director Robert Kimble, who presented the award to Heron at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, July 7. “He was willing to look at the system differently.”
For example, Kimble explained, one of Heron’s most significant accomplishments was tapping into the MRO capabilities of international partners to augment domestic capacity and capabilities.
“Traditionally, the domestic MRO industrial base has considered international partners primarily as customers,” Kimble said. “Heron believed them to be an untapped resource, and through his determination, pulled together resources from different entities worldwide to expand the Naval Aviation Enterprise’s industrial base.”
Under Heron’s leadership, the International Sustainment Center (ISC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, expanded its network of public and private product support providers to include MRO capabilities, reducing the burden on the domestic MRO complex. Today, the ISC provides maintenance and training facilities, airspace, ranges, and maintenance and repair services for 48 domestic customers and 31 international partners.
Heron also played a major role in increasing and moving industrial base maintenance and repair capability and capacity closer to the flight line by using existing Australian MROs. As the NAVAIR representative on the Under Secretary of Defense/Australia AUS-US Ministerial Defense Acquisition Committee Logistics working team, he helped certify and contract with Australia MRO RUAG International to repair multiple U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet components in Australia. The effort validated foreign MRO source approval procedures and provided a path for Australian industry and other international partners to repair additional naval aviation assets. This was also the first time a virtual site survey of an MRO facility was used to achieve source qualification.
Kimble also touted Heron’s cutting-edge approach to performance-based logistics (PBL) contracts. PBLs are contracts with industry or inter-governmental agreements that focus on optimizing customer support, increasing weapon system availability and reducing ownership costs. “Because of his understanding of PBLs, he set the right baseline, leading to the exponential increase of the vehicle’s success rate in the command,” he explained.
As a plank owner in the introduction of PBLs into NAVAIR, Heron considers his work leading the Auxiliary Power Unit Total Logistics Support (APU TLS) Integrated Product Team — naval aviation’s first major, successful PBL that included a public-private partnership (PPP) — as his most notable accomplishment in his 26-year career.
“The APU TLS program experienced unprecedented performance in fleet support, with APU availability exceeding 90% from its previous average of 65%,” Heron explained. “APU TLS became the model program for PBLs and PPP and fundamentally changed how naval aviation develops sustainment strategies.” As a result, the team won the Admiral Stan Arthur Award for Logistics Excellence, the Department of the Navy Competition and Procurement Excellence Award and the Defense Acquisition Executive Award.
Department of Defense senior leadership have also noticed Heron’s success. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Maintenance Policy and Programs requested Heron chair the Expanding PPPs to Product Support working group. The team was asked to draft new congressional legislation that would expand PPPs beyond depot-level maintenance to all DoD product support providers. It would also enable small businesses to reap the same benefits as large businesses by giving them access to government facilities and artisans.
“I plan to continue my work with PPPs to grow the defense industrial base by increasing naval aviation’s collaboration with small businesses,” Heron said, noting his particular interest in tribal companies.
Heron credits his success to experience, teamwork and perseverance. “My career has been one of incremental growth. One of the most memorable events that helped me grow most as a leader was as the F/A-18 propulsion and power assistant program manager for logistics,” he said. “It really hit home with me how important it is to involve all stakeholders and to work together closely. It’s a lesson I apply in all circumstances.”
Heron advises others to believe in themselves and tenaciously bring their ideas to fruition. “Challenges are often not easy to overcome,” he said. “Our work to improve naval aviation enables the fleet — and our international partners — to successfully execute their missions. Persistence and diligence toward achieving your goals are critical to mission success.”