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News | Oct. 12, 2021

Evolution of DLA Troop Support: Forging a path through the 21st century

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s history in Philadelphia and around the world is one of evolution and adaptation. This growth has continued throughout the 21st century, as the organization forges ahead while remaining in sync with the nation’s demands, industry changes and digital transformation.

Harnessing the power of technology to enhance warfighter readiness and supporting national disasters via federal partners are some of the ways DLA Troop Support has continued to improve support to warfighters and continues to evolve as a leader in defense logistics.

In the late 1980s, much of the Subsistence and Medical supply chains’ logistics models centered around government warehouse storage of items to distribute to users. This model, prone to large inventories of limited ranges of products, was sidelined for commercial distribution with increased product choice and better customer delivery rates, according to Subsistence Garrison Feeding Division Chief Patricia Scott.

In the early-to-mid 1990s, as logistics models shifted in the wake of the Gulf War and the internet became a prevalent part of global information expansion, DLA Troop Support was on the leading edge of the movement.

“The goal was to contract with food distributors who would maintain inventory, handle re-ordering, be flexible to frequent changes in name brands, leverage pricing by providing commercial items, and palletize and make deliveries, among other improvements,” Scott said.

The new model, labeled “prime vendor,” was also used by the Medical team, according to Director of Supplier Operations Daniel Keefe.

The approximate benefits of these innovations for Medical included:

  • Increased sales: from $1 billion to $7 billion per year
  • Better delivery times: from 30 days to 5 days
  • Decreased administrative overhead by nearly 25%

The e-commerce transition in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, was a large part of those improvements.

“The combination of prime vendor and electronic catalogue was really a one-two punch for Medical,” Keefe said. “Changing our model to meet changes in the world and embracing e-commerce weren’t easy things to do, but the decision was easy. And now they are two ‘best in class’ acquisition programs.”

DLA Troop Support continued innovating programs to improve logistics solutions for the warfighter, to include the most recent addition of the AbilityOne Base Supply Center tailored vendor logistics program allowing an avenue for customers to order different items in faster, easier ways.

“Our ability to adapt and expand our relevance across a vast landscape of industry, military and global advancement is a testament to DLA’s dynamic strategy and workforce,” DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Eric Shirley said.

The COVID-19 pandemic and DLA’s efforts, primarily led by Troop Support, is one of the most poignant examples, he added.

“For more than a year, the collective efforts of DLA Troop Support and the rest of the agency have provided solutions to the challenges posed by an emergent and persistent viral threat. We have focused on keeping warfighters everywhere protected while supporting a national response,” he said.

While support to the warfighter has and will always be the primary focus of DLA Troop Support, Shirley said, providing a diverse portfolio of supply and logistics capabilities to other federal agencies and increased buying power also benefits the warfighter.

Dorothy O’Connell, chief of DLA Troop Support’s whole of government Business Development, says she was one of the first employees brought on to specifically support the organization’s expanded focus.

“I was brought on in January 2018 to support WoG for Troop Support, however Troop Support’s first wildland fire season was back in 2014,” O’Connell said.

Providing tools and equipment for the U.S. Wildland Fire Service started with specific item management through DLA’s contracting vehicles and logistics systems, and has grown into a program with a customer focused catalog of approximately 290 items with $35-40 million in emergency orders per year, in support of the USFS mission.

The organization’s aperture expanded further as the nation called on DLA to support humanitarian efforts through government partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development for national disaster response, including the 2017 hurricane season.

Since then, DLA Troop Support’s partnerships have grown, enabling the $4.65 billion in support of COVID-19 response and relief operations for the U.S. and its allies.

As the former chief of staff for Operation Warp Speed prior to his new assignment as the DLA Troop Support Commander, Shirley said he is proud of the organization’s achievements in responding to the pandemic and excited for the future.

“Working to get vaccines to our warfighters and nation, I had a unique opportunity to work as a partner to DLA and was always tremendously impressed with its capabilities,” Shirley said. “Now, as the commander of DLA Troop Support with an understanding of the ongoing efforts to enhance global logistics as we evolve with the operational environment, I am even more proud and excited for the future.”