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News | Dec. 14, 2020

DLA supports whole of government, military services during difficult year

By Colin Williams DLA Historian

People looking back on 2020 will remember one thing: COVID-19. Along with the rest of the world, the Defense Logistics Agency was affected by the coronavirus. It suffered supply chain disruptions, business closures, workforce restrictions, social distancing, and infections. Overcoming these challenges, the agency also supported national efforts to defeat the virus while continually supplying the military services

Protecting the workforce was the responsibility of every agency component. At DLA Headquarters, leaders in DLA Human Resources and DLA Information Operations adjusted the agency to a mostly telework environment, while DLA Acquisition and DLA Small Business Programs strengthened the Defense Industrial Base by involving textile companies in cloth facemask production; advising contractors on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act; and providing staff for the Pentagon’s Defense Production Act Title III Task Force. Meanwhile, DLA Troop Support, the agency’s oldest subordinate command, supplied personal protective equipment for agency employees who reported on-site to fulfill emergency requests for personal protective equipment from U.S. Forces Korea and U.S. Pacific Fleet as well as normal requests from the rest of the Defense Department.

The agency assisted millions of Americans by responding to Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignments and Department of Health and Human Services requests for personnel protective equipment that went to nursing homes and replenished stockpiles. At the same time, DLA Troop Support continued missions like sewing flags for the U.S. Space Force and assembling holiday meals for deployed service members.

Other DLA commands helped defend the country and defeat the coronavirus as well. DLA Land and Maritime broke new ground with its use of automated indefinite delivery contracts. Fielded in November 2019, Auto IDCs target low-demand items. Although available to all purchasing commands, DLA’s Ohio-based supply center made the most use of them, awarding more than 5,300, one third of which required no buyer intervention and two thirds only limited intervention. DLA Land and Maritime participated in the COVID-19 response most noticeably by supplying repair parts to the USNS Comfort and Mercy, hospital ships deployed to New York City and Los Angeles.

DLA Aviation supported pandemic efforts by detailing its commander, Air Force Brig. Gen. David J. Sanford, to the White House Supply Chain Advisory Group, where he served as deputy director. His team back at Richmond, Virginia, provided parts to keep aircraft flying. Supported planes included the F-35 Lightning II, a joint strike fighter with international customers.

DLA Energy contributed to DLA’s dual mission while adjusting to closed borders and fluctuations in the price of crude oil. The command supplied fuel to State Department flights returning citizens from overseas, the USNS Mercy and Comfort on their way to the country’s most populated cities, and aircraft lifting Americans off coronavirus-plagued cruise ships. It also provided liquid propellant for the U.S. Space Force’s first mission, RP1 fuel for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, and hydrazine for both the Alliance’s Centaur upper stage rocket and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. Meanwhile, customers in Afghanistan continued receiving DLA-sourced fuel through the Northern Distribution Network.

DLA Disposition Services similarly supported troops in Afghanistan, operating from sites at Bagram Air Base and Kandahar Airfield, plus two expeditionary sites. And the same reverse logistics process that governs equipment scrapping resulted in 156,000 N95 respirators being transferred from the State Department’s Humanitarian Assistance Program to the HHS and 119,500 medical facemasks from Defense Finance and Accounting Service to the Pacific Fleet and other customers.

DLA Distribution shipped most of the transferred equipment, other medical supplies, personal protective equipment, shelf-stable meals and additional pandemic-related items – all while mitigating COVID-19 exposure. Other priorities included a new automation program called the Warehouse Management System, having to transfer 181 employees to the U.S. Navy, and the agency’s assumption of three warehouses from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Together, DLA Headquarters and Major Subordinate Command employees met an unprecedented mission in 2020. Supporting military customers and fellow Americans through FEMA and HHS helped save lives in the same way equipping forces in combat helped protect troops throughout the agency’s almost 60-year history. DLA’s ability to obtain large quantities of scarce material and deliver it when and where needed cemented the agency’s role in warfighter support and pandemic response for years to come.