Fort Belvoir, Virginia –
The Defense Logistics Agency further expanded its global presence last fall, as DLA Distribution opened DLA’s first storage and distribution facility in Africa at the continent’s only long-term U.S. military base, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
The new facility stores and distributes supplies to forces throughout the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, as well as units on base at CLDJ.
DLA Distribution, following the request from Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, an element of the U.S. Africa Command, followed its pattern of executing quick standups, quickly yet systematically relocating the supplies, technology and manpower required to run the site over the course of only 18 months.
In 2002, The combatant command established CJTF–HOA in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to conduct stability operations in the Horn of Africa. USAFRICOM chose Djibouti as a stable base of operations in a volatile region. Its access to the Suez Canal and proximity to critical countries in Africa and the Middle East have increased its strategic importance.
The past decade has seen an exponential growth in forces to combat Islamic extremists in the area and protect U.S. interests. In fact, the footprint of the base has grown nearly five-fold. And due in part to U.S. military investment, Djibouti’s government and economy have benefited, with gross domestic product steadily increasing since 2010 — providing incentive to continue hosting U.S. military and other federal agencies.
This growth has led to a growing need for supply and distribution capabilities. To meet those needs, USAFRICOM leveraged its long-term partnership with DLA.
“The fact is that the strategic logistics flow in the AFRICOM [area of operations] needed to become more efficient, especially with the increasing buildup of troops and other government organizations in the area,” said DLA Distribution Commander Army Brig. Gen. John Laskodi. “There was an inherent need for DLA to manage critical inventory on-site, so that these units could focus on what they’re there for and not worry about when and how materiel was arriving.”
The distribution center is the first DLA Distribution enduring presence in Africa and marks a shift in USAFRICOM’s priorities, from solely expeditionary logistics to an enduring commitment at the national, strategic level, Laskodi added.
The ground commanders also share that view. “This new node in our military supply chain will allow a full range of units from all services performing missions in the East Africa Joint Operations Area to stay in supply,” said Navy Capt. Edward Moninger III, CJTF-HOA director of logistics.
“Local parts and material availability will not only save money but will [also] increase readiness and overall mission effectiveness,” Moninger said.
Opening a Distribution Center in 18 months
In August 2015, a USAFRICOM J4-Logistics led team set out to develop a way ahead for supply, distribution and customs tasks at both CLDJ and a nearby airfield, with the intent to streamline theater distribution.
The team consisted of 17 personnel representing USAFRICOM, Army Materiel Command, DLA, Fleet Logistics Center–Sigonella, CJTF-HOA, the General Services Agency, the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program and the service components.
After the team visited CLDJ, it they determined there was a need and a way ahead for DLA Distribution to provide joint storage and distribution operations there.
The team recommended DLA Distribution develop a plan to set up a theater consolidation shipping point, assume retail operations at CLDJ, and establish a material processing center at the Port of Djibouti in support of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
In a December 2015 memorandum to DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch, USAFRICOM Director for Logistics Air Force Maj. Gen. James Vechery asked for DLA’s assistance to CJTF-HOA, in “a distribution capability analysis that provides an effective and efficient joint solution to manage materiel receiving, storage and distribution operations to Camp Lemonnier, another nearby airfield [and] Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.”
“Through DLA’s institutional knowledge, we expect that overall supply chain management and readiness rates will improve,” Vechery concluded.
In the requested analysis, DLA Distribution determined it would bulk ship materiel to CLDJ via the U.S. Transportation Command. When it arrives, employees would break down shipments and either forward items to the local recipient or stock the materiel for future use by forces in the area.
By forward-stocking over 700 National Stock Numbers, the analysis projected to reduce customer wait times from 37 to nine days for stocked items and generate $2.75 million in annual transportation savings annually.
The Army asked DLA Distribution at the new facility to track Army-owned items through its own system, Global Combat Support System–Army. DLA Distribution agreed its employees will train on and operate the Army system as well as the Distribution Standard System, the main warehousing system used to manage DLA-owned items. This will let the Army maintain visibility of its stock while making sure those items are also visible in the DLA system.
DLA Distribution also agreed to set up an MPC facility at the Port of Djibouti to receive, segregate and stage materiel until ships arrive for air and surface shipment, delivering materiel pier-side with prepared customs clearance documentation, just as the organization does at several other of its MPCs.
In response to the analysis March 10, 2016, Vechery and Busch officially approved the establishment of DLA Distribution Djibouti.
DLA Distribution then faced the task of procuring storage aids and materiel handling equipment. It also had to determine the appropriate technology, training and inventory for the location, as well as hire employees and secure transportation assets.
In four months, DLA Distribution set about creating its Planned Stockage List and shipping those items from its sites in Sigonella, Italy and Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, to ensure the materiel’s arrival by late August. Meanwhile, Camp Lemonnier began relocating items from the warehouse DLA Distribution was preparing to occupy, so that Distribution employees could ready for incoming stock.
DLA Distribution is using its new facility to build goodwill with the local population and Djiboutian businesses. The “Djibouti First” procurement policy gives preference to Djiboutian companies in awarding goods and services contracts for CLDJ. In addition, a contract was put in place to hire 17 local nationals to operate the facility alongside four U.S. government employees. This is helping DLA give back to the local economy and foster more cooperation between the two nations.
To show their support, logistics customers and partners gathered at the site Sept. 30, 2016, for the cutting of a ribbon, to symbolize the official opening of the distribution center.
Laskodi announced he anticipated the operation will have a “very significant impact in the future of support to the forces in the Africa Command area of responsibility.”
Paul Brown, USAFRICOM deputy director for logistics added to the sentiment, saying, “This is a joint solution to a joint force.”
While the site currently only maintains DLA wholesale Items and Army-owned stock, it is prepared to expand support at customers’ request. The plan is to analyze the demand signals into the facility and match stock to the demand.
In the meantime, the site will efficiently and effectively support CJTF-HOA as a joint solution, ensuring customers can execute theater campaign plans in the area while reducing costs and wait time.
“The opening of this distribution center represents an extremely significant commitment to regional security and a demonstration of U.S. national resolve,” Laskodi said.