With Defense Logistics Agency missions in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations increasing substantially over the past three years and an increased focus by President Barack Obama, DLA Europe & Africa has expanded its support to operations on the continent.
Covering 54 nations on the African continent, USAFRICOM was established by President George W. Bush in 2007. Obama expanded USAFRICOM’s reach and ordered the establishment of several efforts, including logistics support, to its area of responsibility.
“America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity,” Obama told the Ghanaian parliament in 2009. “When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems, they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy, technical assistance and logistical support, and will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.”
To assist in meeting these security challenges, DLA provides subsistence items, construction material, repair parts, medical supplies, fuel, distribution support, and disposition services to U.S. and host-nation forces. These support operations are coordinated by the DLA Europe & Africa team, which includes representatives from all of the agency’s primary-level field activities, at a joint logistics operations center in Kleber Kaserne, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. DLA Europe and Africa also has Tom Herrmann, DLA Europe & Africa liaison officer, Gene Warren, USAFRICOM joint logistics planner, and Sam Cooks, DLA Energy liaison officer, working specifically on issues in the USAFRICOM area of responsibility near the combatant command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. In addition, representatives at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, support Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and other U.S. forces operating on the continent.
“Building stability and security on the continent is paramount,” Warren said.
DLA Europe & Africa plays an integral part in supporting two of USAFRICOM’s most critical military tasks: strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional partners and assisting with humanitarian efforts in the region, Warren said.
“We provide logistical support to military forces deployed in the AOR and support efforts to train and equip those forces with the Excess Defense Articles and Foreign Military Sales programs,” Warren said.
For DLA, one of the major logistical challenges has been the lack of infrastructure on the continent, Warren said. Poor road networks and onerous customs and border crossing procedures that vary from one country to another make providing logistics support a unique challenge.
Another unique challenge to deliveries in Africa is the weather, Herrmann added, noting that delivery times within Africa can be iffy at best.
“The issue is not getting it to a port but getting it inside the country,” he said. “Based on the time of year, you can get something from Dubai, for example, to a port in East Africa. But the final delivery destination might be 200 miles inland. Because of the rainy season, it can take you 10 days to go 200 miles. And that’s if you’re able to even get over the roads.”
Fuel requirements, diesel in particular, have been increasing as well due to missions such as Operation Observant Compass, a U.S. effort to provide training, funding, airlift, logistics, communications and intelligence support to a four-nation coalition fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, said Sam Cooks, DLA Energy liaison officer.
“Fuel-wise, Camp Lemonnier is our most active and busiest location that we support,” Cooks said. “Certainly in some other locations, such as Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, we expend a lot of time on those because they are such far-reaching areas. Between February and August 2012, DLA Energy executed 25 spot buys to procure fuel in 55-gallon drums to haul out to those various sites. Quantity-wise, it’s about 75,000 gallons that we’ve executed overall, and about 95 percent of that fuel has been diesel. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’re talking about moving a lot of drums into very remote locations over immature transportation networks. There are unpaved roads that are impacted by the rainy season, monsoons that wash away the roads, and rivers that swell and make the bridges impassable. It can be very challenging.”
With 29 “into-plane” contracts, 10 marine gas oil bunker locations, and a defense fuel support point at Camp Lemonnier, DLA Energy supports both land and sea operations.
“We have 29 into-plane contracts at major international airports in Africa,” Cooks said. “Any time a Defense Department aircraft shows up, they can just go to that vendor and lift fuel at the DoD contract price, which is most times more favorable than buying on the open market. The marine gas oil bunkers are similar to the into-plane, just at seaports. The Navy can pull in and lift marine gas oil for the surface ships for their propulsion. Our defense fuel support point in Djibouti provides military specification maritime fuels for the U.S. Navy: F-76 for the ship’s propulsion and JP-5 for the ship’s aviation operations.”
Along with diesel fuel, DLA Energy also provides liquid oxygen and aviation gasoline to Camp Lemonnier. Thanks to these two contracts, the customers’ sustainment burden has dropped significantly, saving not only money but air cargo space, Cooks said.
“One of the contracts we have, the liquid oxygen contract that supports Camp Lemonnier, was stood up in May 2012,” he said. “The previous sustainment method was for the Air Force to actually fly that product in. Now that product is imported into the country then delivered to the camp. The significance is now they don’t have to fly it in with the contract in place. It’s the same with aviation gasoline. The contracts save a lot of money and free up air cargo space for other critical items that truly need to be airlifted.”
DLA Troop Support also supports efforts in Africa, providing medical supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals through the Global Health Initiative, helping fight malaria and HIV and AIDS and improve maternal and child health. DLA Disposition Services provides excess medical material not needed by U.S. Defense Department customers to other federal customers through such programs as the Humanitarian Assistance Program, contributing to the reduction of child mortality in Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya and other African states.