Explaining intricate logistical support systems and finding ways to create a stronger partnership were topics of conversation between senior leaders from the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and the Defense Health Agency during a visit in Philadelphia Jan. 11.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, DLA Troop Support commander, Army Col. Matthew Voyles, Medical supply chain director, and other Medical senior leaders hosted Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, DHA’s Combat Support Agency assistant director, to open dialogue on current support to DHA operations and potential future opportunities.
“DLA Troop Support’s mission is focused on sustaining warfighter readiness and lethality by proactive global logistics in peace and war,” Simerly said. “You can see the vision is very similar to DHA’s. We’re the nation’s combat logistics support agency and we think that role is important for us to understand, as well as our warfighting customers.”
DHA is a joint, integrated combat support agency that enables the Army, Navy and Air Force to provide a “medically ready force and a ready medical force” to Combatant Commands in both peacetime and wartime, according to its website.
Troop Support’s Medical supply chain, which serves as the medical logistics provider for the Department of Defense, has collaborated with DHA since 2013.
“Combat operations would not happen without logistics, and care of patients would not happen without medical logistics,” Payne said. “I see incredible opportunities and partnerships for us and where we’re headed.”
During the visit, Payne learned how Medical supports DHA’s current requirements. They also discussed how the supply chain plans to support DHA as it begins to assume responsibility for the DOD’s medical treatment facilities.
In October 2018, DHA began assuming management and administration of military treatment facilities from the services through a phased transition process set to be completed by Oct. 2021. Previously, Medical provided logistics support to the service branches that managed the facilities.
“Today, we treat DHA as a [military] service, and still coordinate with the individual [military] services,” Nora Steigerwalt, Medical customer operations director, explained. “We’re still going out to each of [the services] as their own entity. As DHA absorbs more of the [military treatment facilities], we will look towards DHA to provide MTF requirements and the services to provide operational requirements.”
Medical leaders discussed the importance of its strategic partnership with DHA, and the need to create a memorandum of agreement between the agencies regarding the acquisition of medical supplies and services as DHA’s mission continues to grow.
“Medical is the medical materiel executive agent, whereas DHA has [medical logistics] enterprise activity roles and responsibilities,” Voyles said. “Having a MOA would try to define those as tight and as strict as we can.”
The partnership between the agencies began with the DHA/DLA five-year engagement plan. It covers a full range of e-commerce programs and supporting infrastructure, including pharmaceutical, medical and surgical prime vendor, and national contract programs. The plan not only focuses on larger acquisition programs like prime vendor and national contracts, but also gives visibility to other areas such as electronic catalog systems and information technology.
Simerly told Payne that even though the supply chain is the DOD’s medical logistics provider, there is still competition from other organizations, which requires innovation throughout operations and partnerships.
“The services, even as customers, could be our competition because they hold a very high standard of performance and expectations in terms of value of prices, when we can deliver, etcetera,” Simerly said. “We feel like we have to constantly innovate in order to stay the leading edge in offering the best value solutions.”
Payne thanked the Medical team for their support and was optimistic about potential opportunities between DHA and DLA.
“We really appreciate what you do,” Payne said. “I really think there’s great opportunity for the agencies to partner, and we’ll move through this time, and as [Simerly] said there’s definitely opportunity here if we do it that way.”
Before concluding his visit, Payne toured DLA Troop Support’s flag room, where employees make military unit flags and hand embroider the presidential and vice-presidential flags, and the Product Testing Center.