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News | Jan. 8, 2021

Medical supply chain team achieves seemingly impossible pandemic support

By Beth Reece

Editor's note: This is part of a series of 11 stories highlighting individual and team contributions to DLA’s pandemic support.

Dan Keefe had just been assigned to a Federal Emergency Management Agency task force for pandemic support when an Army colonel told him and other members to remove their “warfighter hats.”

“‘You’re not only helping our military forces now; you’re helping the nation,’ he told us. That really resonated with me. We were coming together to help the citizens of the United States,” said Keefe, director of supplier operations for the medical supply chain at Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support. 

He and other DLA major subordinate command representatives have worked with FEMA, Department of Health and Human Services, and Defense Department officials since March to outline requirements and support for everything from antigen test kits for schools and nursing homes to replenishment of the Strategic National Stockpile. Emergency contracts for the items were orchestrated by Keefe’s Philadelphia-based team, which has partnered with industry to increase domestic production where possible. 

“And we never missed a beat with our support to warfighters, which probably constitutes less than 2% of the demand across the nation for medical supplies,” he said.

DLA’s longstanding support to federal agencies and relationships with defense manufacturers and small businesses that help supply DOD with pharmaceuticals, medical material and even flu vaccines have been key to the pandemic response, he added. 

“We’ve come together to create a collective plan, and in some cases that’s meant adjusting our processes,” Keefe said. “But as I’ve watched stuff get delivered, it’s been easy to see customers’ relief as they received supplies that have seen shortages everywhere.” 

The agency’s medical supply chain includes eight divisions, all of which have contributed to DLA’s response. Capital Equipment Division employees purchased life-saving ventilators, for example, and the Manufacturing Distribution Pharmaceutical Division is working with DLA Distribution to develop processes for potentially shipping COVID-19 vaccines. 

Despite some hiccups, DLA Troop Support has shown it’s capable of seemingly impossible missions, Keefe said. It’s secret? People.

“A lot of people – too numerous to name – have stepped up and even moved from other supply chains to help us answer the demands for medical supplies. A lot of them have been working substantial hours, in some cases 40 to 50 hours overtime a pay period for quite some time,” he said. 

Keefe’s team is already researching alternative contracting models in response to what he expects will be a renewed look at future pandemic preparations. 

“We already have our eye on the future. And even though we can’t say we’ve won the battle yet, we’re achieving small victories every day,” he said.

Keefe has returned to his position at DLA Troop Support but continues serving as a DLA liaison for other task forces and federal agencies.