CHERRY HILL, N.J. –
A record-breaking 800-plus representatives from the Defense Logistics Agency, military services and domestic clothing and textiles manufacturer firms attended DLA Troop Support’s eighth annual Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry in Cherry Hill, New Jersey Nov. 16-17.
The annual engagement hosted by the Clothing and Textiles supply chain, was the most highly attended since its inception, according to event organizers.
“There’s a lot of you out here, if you look left, you look right, there are very few empty seats, thank you all for coming out,” said Clothing and Textiles Director Air Force Col. Matthew Harnly. “It means a lot to us, that you’re here, to give us that ability to see you face to face. It’s also great for our service members that are here, from the customer’s perspective to have this forum.”
The JAPBI is geared towards fostering communication between the Department of Defense and military clothing and textiles manufacturers.
Keynote speaker and DLA Troop Support Commander Eric P. Shirley highlighted the integral part the industrial base plays in Troop Support’s global warfighter support mission.
“From the day they show up to recruit training to the day they walk across the final retirement stage wearing , and receive their last decoration and award, you all make that material solution a reality and for that I say thank you,” Shirley said.
Harnly was also one of many speakers who expressed appreciation for the domestic clothing and textiles industry’s support, especially in challenging times since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past year things have been getting better, but I’d say not exponentially better, so I think we recognize that,” Harnly said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, the pandemic still has lingering effects, and we know that’s been affecting you as a business, also affects our customers as well.”
From a C&T perspective, the team is focusing on working with vendors to rectify outstanding issues, he said.
“We continue to look for those efforts so that you remain a viable and strong industrial base,” Harnly said.
Steve Merch, C&T Director of Supplier Operations, addressed a key industry concern of C&T’s continued adherence to the Berry Amendment, which ensures covered items, like clothing, are manufactured in the U.S.
“We pride ourselves on trying to find Berry-compliant solutions,” Merch said. “A lot of times contracts run smoothly, and over this past year there’s been a lot of stuff that’s popped up and we work with you, our industry, and our industry associations. And most of the times we’ve been able to come up with alternate solutions that are Berry-compliant.”
Using metaphors of supply chain issues in daily life like milk missing from grocery shelves, or low car inventory, Event Curator and C&T Strategic Material Sourcing Chief Donna Pointkouski emphasized the perseverance of the domestic clothing and textiles industry to continue providing items amidst supply chain challenges.
“You and I both know that the supply chain in this room has issues and I say that with a smile,” Pointkouski said. “But once again you pulled a rabbit out of a hat.”
Pointkouski highlighted shared accomplishments within the last year, including nearly 1.5 million orders shipped to customers worldwide, approximately 220,100 new recruits receiving uniform clothing bag items, the production of more than five million camouflage uniforms in various patterns, and over 74 million items including clothing, equipment or insignia stored in commercial warehouses.
“With all of the challenges, increasing prices for raw materials, increasing lead times, you still made it happen,” Pointkouski said. “So once again, thank you. We in the government can design clothing, we can write specifications, we can plan requirements, we can award contracts, but without our industry partners we cannot do our job, which is support the nation’s warfighters.”
Military service representatives shared forecasting updates and opportunities industry can assist with finding solutions, including joint clothing and textiles modernization and uniform commonality across the services.
“I really implore all of us to get to commonality because then, when we as the services hand solutions onto DLA that works for all of us where it makes sense, it saves a lot of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Army Col. Derek Bird, program manager for Soldier Survivability at the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier.
Space Force presented to the JAPBI audience for the first time as the newest military service branch lays the groundwork for its uniform program, said Space Force Col. James Jenkins, director of the Change Management Team.
“We exist, we’re up and running, we’ll have a program office by the end of the year, and we look forward to working with you,” Jenkins said.
The two-day event provided networking opportunities and breakout sessions to drill down on specific items and facets of business, including individual equipment and body armor, gloves, and quality assurance requirements.
C&T provides industry-related updates on its website throughout the year.