History of DLA

The origins of the Defense Logistics Agency date back to World War II when America’s huge military buildup required the rapid procurement of vast amounts of munitions and supplies. After the war, a presidential commission headed by former President Herbert Hoover recommended centralizing management of common military logistics support and introducing uniform financial management practices. Integrated management began in 1958 with the formation of the Armed Forces Supply Support Center. For the first time, all the military services bought, stored, and issued items using a common nomenclature. The Department of Defense and the services defined the materiel that would be managed on an integrated basis as “consumables,” meaning supplies that are not repairable, or are consumed in normal use. Consumable items, also called commodities, were assigned to one military service to manage for all services. 

In the mid 1950’s, commodity manager agencies called “single managers” were established to buy, store and issue supplies, manage inventories, and forecast requirements. The Army managed food and clothing; the Navy managed medical supplies, petroleum and industrial parts; and the Air Force managed electronic items. In each category, the single manager was able to reduce its investment by centralizing wholesale stocks. 

The single manager concept, though successful, did not provide the uniform procedure recommended by the Hoover Commission. Each single manager operated under the procedures of its parent service, and customers had to use as many sets of procedures as there were managers. In 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered that the single-manager agencies be consolidated into one agency. The Defense Supply Agency was established Oct. 1, 1961, and began operations Jan. 1, 1962. Eight single-manager agencies became DSA supply centers.

In 1965, DoD consolidated most of the contract administration activities in the military services to avoid duplication of effort and provide uniform procedures in administrating contracts. Officials established the Defense Contract Administration Services within DSA to manage the consolidated functions. The Agency’s new contract administration mission gave it responsibility for the performance of most defense contractors. 

The agency’s responsibilities extended overseas when it assumed responsibility for defense overseas property disposal operations and worldwide procurement, management and distribution of coal and bulk petroleum products (1972), and worldwide management of food items for troop feeding and in support of commissaries (1973). 

In recognition of 16 years of growth and expanded responsibilities, on Jan. 1, 1977, officials changed the name of the Defense Supply Agency to the Defense Logistics Agency. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 identified DLA as a combat support agency. In 1988, the agency assumed management of the nation’s stockpile of strategic materials from the General Service Administration. Soon after, DLA established the Defense National Stockpile Center as a primary-level field activity. In 1990, DoD directed that virtually all contract administration functions be consolidated within DLA. In response, the agency established the Defense Contract Management Command absorbing its Defense Contract Administration Service into the new command.

Throughout the 1990’s the agency continued its effort to eliminate managerial and stockage duplication, reducing overhead costs. In April 1990, DoD directed that all the distribution depots of the military services and DLA be consolidated into a single, unified materiel distribution system to reduce overhead and costs and designated DLA to manage it. The consolidation began in October 1990 and was completed March 16, 1992. 

DLA headquarters conducted additional major reorganizations. In March 1993, the agency re-engineered its headquarters to form integrated business units for Supply Management, Distribution and Contract Management. As a result, only six organizations, rather than 42, would report directly to the DLA director. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the 1990s recommended realigning and closing military facilities, and significantly affected the way the agency organized for its contract administration and supply distribution missions. Officials merged, realigned or closed several DLA primary-level field activities. This included the merger of the former Defense Construction Supply Center Columbus and the former Defense Electronic Supply Center Dayton to form the Defense Supply Center Columbus. 

In 1995, the DLA headquarters and Defense Fuel Supply Center (renamed Defense Energy Support Center in January 1998) moved from Cameron Station to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In October 1996, Defense Printing Services, renamed Defense Automated Printing Service, transferred to DLA. In late December 1997 and early January 1998, the headquarters was again realigned, and the agency’s Defense Material Management Directorate became Defense Logistics Support Command. The Defense Industrial Support Center, located in northeast Philadelphia, was closed in 1999. Concurrently, the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia was moved from south Philadelphia to DISC’s former installation.

As the new millennium began, DLA sought to better increase its business efficiency and ability to quickly serve the war fighter at the right price. In 2000, the agency launched the DLA 21 initiative – a business-oriented method of positioning the agency. It focused on aligning capabilities around the customers’ environments and basing its business processes on the best use of information in order to elevate the level of military logistics support in the new century. In 2001, the new DLA headquarters building was renamed and dedicated the McNamara Headquarters Complex in honor of DLA’s first director, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Andrew T. McNamara.

While DLA was working to improve the way it did business, the agency rose to meet new challenges from terrorist attacks and natural disasters. In the traumatic days and weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, DLA continued to provide outstanding logistical support. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, beginning in 2001, DLA processed more than 6.8 million requisitions with a total value of more than $6.9 billion; provided $21.2 million in humanitarian support and supplied more than 2.3 billion U.S. gallons of fuel.

In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, beginning in 2003, DLA processed 6.4 million requisitions with a total value of more than $6.89 billion, provided more than 180.5 million field meals, provided nearly 2 million humanitarian daily rations for displaced refugees, and supplied more than 3 billion U.S. gallons of fuel. During retrograde operations from Iraq, the agency continued to supply 100 percent of food, fuel and medical supplies, as well as most of the clothing, construction materials and spare parts for weapons systems for the forces that remained during the reconstruction of Iraq.

In 2007, DLA extended its enterprise to 48 states and 28 countries, working hand in hand with military services around the globe. To oversee expeditionary contracting during combat, post-combat, and contingency operations, DLA formed the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office in 2009. That same year, DLA began planning the support for the drawdown of equipment and supplies in Iraq.

DLA has been a major provider of logistical and aid support in humanitarian and natural disaster relief missions. The agency provided unprecedented logistical and humanitarian support in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in October-November 2012. DLA leveraged its commercial partners to meet the needs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Defense Department, and many of the 24 states affected by devastating storm. 

DLA also responded rapidly in September 2014 to support the U.S. Agency for International Development in combating the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa. Working with U.S. Africa Command, DLA was part of the first group on the ground to identify sources of supply and begin establishing in-country logistics operations. As orders came in, DLA immediately responded by filling requirements for food, water, cots, building supplies and medical supplies to support AFRICOM and its component elements. DLA support was crucial to this humanitarian operation.

DLA’s top priority is warfighter support. In support of this during 2016, DLA improved support to combatant commanders through its C2 Initiative, making DLA regional commanders the agency’s “single face” to the customer. The agency also improved support to the services by supporting the Army’s divestiture of excess equipment; improving the Marine Corps Weapon System Support Program; forward stocking the Navy’s fleet high priority material; and providing DLA training to Air Force personnel. 

DLA’s Whole of Government initiative was successful in delivering disaster relief to the people of Haiti and the Southeastern United States following Hurricane Matthew; assisting Iraqi and Syrian refugees with humanitarian support; and completing the third successful year of support to the U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighting efforts.

On Oct. 1, 2021, DLA celebrated 60 years of supporting the Armed Forces, and continues to do so today. As America’s combat logistics support agency, the Defense Logistics Agency continues to provide the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, other federal agencies and combined and allied forces with the full spectrum of logistics, acquisition and technical services. Wherever the United States has a significant military presence, DLA is there as well.

Major Subordinate Command Histories

Interested in the histories of some of DLA's major subordinate commands? Visit the following pages to learn more about specific parts of DLA, or choose one of the installation graphics to get a glimpse of their story.

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JMU Awards

All eight of DLA's Joint Meritorious Unit Awards have been earned since the agency was designated a combat support agency. The first recognized performance during the Gulf War. Subsequent awards recognized either support to named operations, whole of government responses, or significant savings.

Use the tabs above to learn more about each of the agency's JMUAs.

Date Received: Oct. 1, 1991
Period Covered: Aug. 2, 1990, to Feb. 28, 1991
Director: Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles P. McCausland

Key Justifications:

  • Supported 500,000 American service members in Operations Desert Shield and Storm
  • Assisted allies with logistical support
  • Handled 1.7 million requisitions
  • Shipped $32 billion in spare parts

Date Received: May 8, 1996
Period Covered: Feb. 17, 1994, to Oct. 1, 1995
Director: Navy Vice Adm. Edward M. Straw

Key Justifications:

  • Achieved $6.3 billion in savings

Date Received: July 23, 1999
Period Covered: Nov. 1, 1996, to Feb. 1, 1999
Directors: Air Force Lt. Gen. George T. Babbitt and Army Lt. Gen. Henry T. Glisson

Key Justifications:

  • Supported Operation Joint Endeavor
  • Responded to Hurricanes Mitch and George
  • Provided assistance for flood relief

Date Received: Jan. 15, 2003
Period Covered: Sept. 11, 2001, to Feb. 28, 2002
Director: Navy Vice Adm. Keith W. Lippert

Key Justifications:

  • Supported Operation NOBLE EAGLE / ENDURING FREEDOM
  • Organizational transformation
  • Reduced hardware backorders 25 percent
  • Decreased costs by more than $1 billion

Date Received: Aug. 15, 2005
Period Covered: Aug. 1, 2002, to Jan. 1, 2005
Director: Navy Vice Adm. Keith W. Lippert

Key Justifications:

  • Support for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM
  • Established four overseas distribution depots in support of current operations

Date Received: Oct. 4, 2011
Period Covered: Nov. 1, 2009, to April 30, 2011
Director: Navy Vice Adm. Alan S. Thompson

Key Justifications:

  • Supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom

Date Received: April 29, 2014
Period Covered: Nov. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012
Director: Navy Vice Admiral Mark D. Harnitchek

Key Justifications:

  • Supported populations affected by Hurricane Sandy
  • Responded to the closure of Pakistani ground lines of communications with alternate solutions and no loss of service

Date Received: Dec. 19, 2019
Period Covered: Sept. 16, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2018
Directors: Air Force Lt. Gen. Andrew E. Busch and Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams

Key Justifications:

  • Response to Ebola outbreak in West Africa
  • Established the Nuclear Enterprise Support Office
  • Provided Humanitarian Assistance to internally displaced persons
  • Saved the Defense Health Agency $150 million
  • Support to the U.S. Forest Service -Disaster Relief for Hurricanes Florence and Michael / Super Typhoon Yutu

The mission and functions of the agency are rooted to the following charters:

Previous DLA Directors and Vice/Deputy Directors

Many directors and vice/deputy directors have led the organization through the decades, each with their own impact on the agency. Explore the tabs above to learn more.

  • Hall of Fame: Explore more of the contributions from some of these previous leaders in the DLA Hall of Fame.
  • Leadership: Read more about DLA's current leadership.


Years Name
1961-1964 LTG Andrew T. McNamara, USA (Deceased)
1964-1967 VADM Joseph M. Lyle, SC, USN (Deceased)
1967-1971 Lt Gen Earl C. Hedlund, USAF (Deceased)
1971-1975 LtGen Wallace H. Robinson, Jr., USMC (Deceased)
1976-1978 LTG Woodrow W. Vaughan, USA (Deceased)
1978-1981 Lt Gen Gerald J. Post, USAF (Deceased)
1981-1984 VADM Eugene A. Grinstead, SC, USN (Deceased)
1984-1986 LTG Donald M. Babers, USA
1986-1988 LTG Vincent M. Russo, USA (Deceased)
1988-1992 Lt Gen Charles P. McCausland, USAF
1992-1996 VADM Edward M. Straw, SC, USN
1996-1997 GEN George T. Babbitt, USAF
1997-2001 LTG Henry T. Glisson, USA
2001-2006 VADM Keith W. Lippert, SC, USN
2006-2008 LTG Robert T. Dail, USA
2008-2011 VADM Alan S. Thompson, SC, USN
2011-2014 VADM Mark D. Harnitchek, SC, USN
2014-2017 Lt Gen Andrew E. Busch, USAF
2017-2020 LTG Darrell K. Williams, USA
2020-Present VADM Michelle C. Skubic, SC, USN


Years Name
1962-1964 RADM Joseph M. Lyle, SC, USN (Deceased)
1964-1966 Maj Gen Francis C. Gideon, USAF (Deceased)
1966-1967 Maj Gen Earl C. Hedlund, USAF (Deceased)
1967-1969 MG Woodrow W. Vaughan, USA (Deceased)
1969-1969 MG Robert C. Kyser, USA (Deceased)
1969-1972 MG Thomas H. Scott, Jr., USA (Deceased)
1973-1974 MG Darrie H. Richards, USA (Deceased)
1974-1975 RADM Paul F. Cosgrove, SC, USN (Deceased)
1975-1976 MG John C. Raaen, Jr., USA
1976-1978 RADM Philip Crosby, SC, USN (Deceased)
1978-1981 MG Robert C. Gaskill, USA
1981-1982 MG Emmett W. Bowers, USA (Deceased)
1982-1983 Maj Gen Milton Roger Peterson, USAF
1983-1984 MG Benjamin F. Register, Jr., USA
1984-1985 RADM Bruno A. Pomponio, SC, USN (Deceased)
1985-1986 Maj Gen Donald P. Litke, USAF
1986-1987 Maj Gen Stanton R. Musser, USAF (Deceased)
1987-1988 Maj Gen Harold N. Campbell, USAF (Deceased)
1989-1992 RADM Brady M. Cole, SC, USN
1992-1995 Lt Gen Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr., USAF
1995-1998 MG Ray E. McCoy, USA
1998-1999 RADM Edward R. Chamberlin, SC, USN
1999-2002 RADM Raymond A. Archer, III, SC, USN
2002-2005 Maj Gen Mary L. Saunders, USAF
2005-2007 Lt Gen Loren M. Reno, USAF
2007-2009 Maj Gen Arthur B. Morrill, III, USAF
2010-2012 Ms. Mae DeVincentis
2012-2019 Mr. Ted Case
2019-2021 Mr. Michael Scott
2021-Present Mr. Bradley B. Bunn



DLA's proud history runs deep: Explore DLA's origins from its headquarters to its major subordinate commands.
This documentary shows how DLA's first director, Army Lt. Gen. Andrew T. McNamara, played a critical role in World War II.


Dr. Colin Jay Williams
Defense Logistics Agency Historian