The end of 2016 marked the beginning of a new era of warfighter support for the Defense Logistics Agency in the form of athletic footwear. Military service members used to purchase athletic footwear with cash allowances or their own money, but the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act mandated that the Department of Defense provide American-made footwear to new recruits at no cost.
DLA Troop Support’s Clothing and Textiles supply chain has been a front runner in the race from policy to product, working closely with military counterparts and American footwear manufacturers over the past two years. The new shoes are now being issued to recruits.
“Recruits’ [athletic footwear] now have more variety in lengths and widths than any commercial athletic shoe in the world,” C&T Director Air Force Col. Melvin Maxwell said.
From assessing customer requirements and contract awards to fielding the first pairs of athletic footwear to Air Force recruits in January at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, DLA’s marathon of support is still underway.
Every mile of supply chain support marks more collaboration by C&T and its stakeholders as they prepare to provide athletic shoes to about 250,000 Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard recruits every year.
From Legislation to Contract Award
The 2017 NDAA states that athletic footwear must be compliant with the Berry Amendment, a federal law that requires the DoD to purchase certain items, including food and clothing, from American manufacturers.
Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has been critical to maintaining the armed forces’ safety and security, in addition to supporting the U.S. textile and clothing industry base, according to the website of the International Trade Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Through its many supply chains, DLA procures items based on the requirements of its military customers and works with them to meet their needs.
With this new requirement for athletic footwear, C&T contracting, technical and customer-relations experts worked with military program managers and engineering-support offices to ensure each service’s requirements were met during contract solicitation.
This included conducting market research and holding a pre-proposal meeting with prospective shoe manufacturers and military counterparts in August 2017, said C&T Organizational Clothing Division Chief Kevin Peoples.
“The DLA Troop Support athletic footwear team did an outstanding job structuring an acquisition strategy that provides flexibility,” as demand among the shoe choices is expected to change based on recruits’ experience wearing the different types of shoes, Peoples said.
The unique combination of shoe type, gender and size is classified as a National Stock Number for cataloging and ordering purposes.
There are three types of athletic footwear based on foot type: neutral for users with high arches, stability for those with moderate arches and motion control for recruits with low arches.
There are 100 men’s sizes available in four widths, from sizes four to 16, and 40 women’s sizes available in two widths, from sizes 4 to 13. Given the possible combinations of sizes and types, the contract covers over 400 NSNs. The average unit price for all the shoes is about $92.
“The DLA Troop Support athletic footwear team has played an integral role in the development and execution of the DoD timeline,” Peoples said. “The team worked closely with the services in reviewing and approving their technical-data packages for athletic footwear in the various types: cushion, stability and motion control, all in both male and female sizing.”
The team’s expertise and collaboration allowed them to successfully accomplish one of the most critical milestones in the athletic footwear program: meeting its scheduled contract-awards deadline.
Opportunities and Challenges
In addition to being the first time DLA is providing athletic footwear, there was a tight timeline between solicitation and target award dates to meet NDAA guidelines, C&T Contracting Officer Jessica De La Hoz explained.
From July 2017 to March 2018, DLA Troop Support solicited and awarded three contracts for athletic footwear among three American footwear manufacturers for a total value of about $78 million.
“Companies that submitted a proposal … were required to obtain certification from the services’ respective engineering-support activity offices,” De La Hoz said. “DLA communicated with the ESAs on evaluation results and timelines.”
Using the military’s certification process allowed industry to submit prototype samples earlier in the acquisition process and before the solicitation closing, Peoples explained.
“Price and technical merit were essentially equal because we did require industry to obtain service approval or certification of their proposed samples in order for them to be considered for an award,” Peoples said. “This enabled us to focus our energy on evaluating respondents’ past performance information, socioeconomic plans and price.”
In December 2017, the team awarded the first contract for athletic footwear to San Antonio Shoes in San Antonio, for an estimated value of $34 million with a base term maximum of 206,000 pairs and an option term maximum of 192,000 pairs.
In February 2018, the team awarded a contract estimated at $27 million to Propper International in Puerto Rico, with a base term maximum of 180,250 pairs and an option term maximum of 168,000 pairs.
The final contract was awarded in March 2018 to New Balance Athletics in Boston, for an estimated value of $17 million with a base term maximum of 128,750 pairs and an option term maximum of 120,000 pairs.
Each contract includes respective 18-month base terms and 18-month option terms, with first deliveries to be made 210 days after the contract is awarded. The average production lead time for C&T footwear procurements is about 120 days; however, suppliers had additional lead time to meet this unique first-time requirement, De La Hoz explained.
“And once an award is made, DLA also ensures vendors meet Berry Amendment requirements by working with Defense Contract Management Agency quality assurance representatives to inspect submitted items,” she said.
All three contracts are positioned to support any combination of orders for male and female recruits in any version of the three types of athletic footwear, Peoples said. The contracts are also set up to support delivery to all three of C&T’s commercial warehouses and directly to the nine recruit training centers.
“The team was able to cultivate and promote healthy competition and achieved an estimated $10 million in negotiated savings with an increasing level of competition being noted on each successive contract award,” Peoples said.
From Manufacturer to Recruits
Now that the manufacturing process is well underway, fielding has begun and about 2,800 newly enlisted male and female airmen received American-made footwear in the recruit training issue line January 2019.
DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly commended industry’s remarkable response to helping DLA and the military services meet its federal mandate to provide American-made athletic footwear.
“The athletic footwear program is a positive development for the U.S. clothing industry, offering additional manufacturing opportunities,” Simerly said. “From the time the requirement was generated, to production of the shoes, to delivering to our troops, this has been an outstanding example of industry’s responsiveness and support.”
At JBSA-Lackland, DLA already has athletic footwear stocked and will continue to replenish supplies as the rollout continues, said Tom Holtz, chief of the C&T Recruit Clothing Division.
“We feel confident that the rollout will be a great success,” Holtz said. “We have collaborated closely with the initial fielding sites and have ensured that the adequate levels have been positioned in anticipation of the rollout.
“In addition, our vendor base is primed and continuous production is coming off the line, which will enable us to support sustainment at the initial fielding sites and integrate the Navy and Army sites during the coming fiscal year,” Holtz said.
Based on the current rollout schedule, Navy recruits at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, will receive athletic footwear in April. In October, Army recruits at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will receive athletic footwear, in addition to recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.
Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force recruit training centers receive stock through DLA’s push system, in which C&T supplies the RTCs, and they remain DLA property until products are physically issued to the recruit and the point of sale takes place, Holtz said.
Like most of C&T’s customer base, the Coast Guard uses the “pull system,” in which the customer takes immediate ownership of materiel once the order is fulfilled.
“The Coast Guard ordered its required shoes for the initial rollout in November,” Holtz said. “They will continue to order in this fashion moving forward and plan to order on a monthly basis to replenish inventory levels.”
The Coast Guard phased in issuing DLA-procured athletic footwear earlier this year in Cape May, New Jersey, as it depleted its own stock of American-made athletic footwear from a previous contract, said Chris Mouldon, manager of the Coast Guard Uniform Distribution Center.
As DLA’s athletic footwear program’s marathon of support picks up speed, C&T is on the right track to accomplish its mission of 100 percent recruit fulfillment to help DLA maintain readiness as it supports the warfighter.