RICHMOND, Va. –
The Defense Department’s aviation supply chain manager prepared to support coronavirus relief efforts as news of the virus became known early this year.
Since the World Health Organization declared the virus a global pandemic March 11, DLA Aviation has processed almost 3,000 orders worth over $3 million for items like aircraft disinfectants and nautical charts.
Contract Specialist Tonya Green, who works in DLA Aviation’s Supplier Operations Original Equipment Manufacturer Directorate, reviewed inventory and contract actions in February and realized more disinfectants and hand sanitizers would be needed to meet anticipated demands.
She and DLA Aviation chemists identified new sanitation products such as aircraft disinfecting wipes and expanded the current contract to include three types of hand sanitizers and six types of aircraft disinfectants.
DLA Aviation employees co-located with customers at industrial support and depot-level reparable activities throughout the U.S. are also ensuring aircraft parts are available by monitoring customers’ production schedules and suppliers’ deliveries. At the end of March, 87 of the activity’s 3,700 suppliers were closed for COVID-19 reasons but are now reopened. Eleven reopened with the help of a letter from the undersecretary of defense for acquisition to suppliers. The letter classified supplier employees as mission essential and allowed them to travel from home to work in states that had stay-at-home orders. After reopening, businesses increased production to support DLA Aviation contracts for critical readiness drivers in support of the warfighter.
DLA Aviation’s Mapping Division also answered in just three hours the Navy’s request for nautical charts used by the USNS Comfort while navigating from Virginia to New York City. And Contracting Officer Efrain Acevedo Santiago deployed in early April with DLA’s Rapid Deployment Blue Team to support U.S. Army North medical and logistics units supporting COVID-19 missions.
“Regardless of the challenges of supporting the warfighter during the pandemic, the DLA Aviation team has not missed a beat,” said Charlie Lilli, DLA Aviation deputy commander. “They are executing our mission and exceeding every expectation. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the team.”
Employees whose work could be done at alternate locations began mandatory telework March 23. Now, about 80% of DLA Aviation’s workforce is teleworking with daily teleconferencing, emails and phone calls to stay updated on tasks and check on each other’s health and wellbeing while continuing critical partnerships with customers and suppliers.
“Our DLA Aviation team really stepped up to the plate and made sure that the day-to-day mission continued while developing a positive ‘virtual’ climate and culture filled with understanding and support for each other,” said Cathy Contreras, DLA Aviation acquisition executive.
Employees working from home also faced challenges of caring for children and grandchildren with the closure of daycare facilities and schools. But employees are resilient, Contreras added. One supervisor conducts daily check-ins by emailing his employees virtual fist bumps. Employees also built morale by creating a group cookbook or sharing photos of their new work environments and music playlists. Other employees devoted their personal time to making cloth face masks for co-workers and communities. And on-site employees minimized virus spread by sanitizing workspaces, wearing face masks and social distancing.
DLA Aviation is currently working with local, state and federal agencies on reconstitution plans to allow employees to safely return to their work locations. Until then, employees will continue monitoring procurement actions and providing aviation-related supplies for COVID-19 and other missions, Lilli said.
DLA Aviation supports over 1,800 weapons systems like the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III.