Supporting Apollo 11

By Irene Smith DLA Energy Public Affairs

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Fifty years ago, Defense Supply Agency in Cameron Station – the predecessor agency of Defense Logistics Agency – supported the first manned mission to land on the Moon. 

Through an interagency supply support agreement with NASA, the agency played an instrumental role in the Apollo 11 mission furnishing a number of items which went into “one of mankind’s most complex scientific ventures,” according to the agency’s bi-monthly newspaper, the DSA News. 

Appreciation for the support of the Apollo moon mission was expressed by Wernher von Braun, Director of NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama, in a letter to DSA.

A part of the letter was reprinted in DSA News in October 1969.

“I would like to express my personal appreciation for the excellent support that Defense Supply Agency elements, particularly the Defense Contract Administration Services, have provided the George C. Marshal Space Flight Center,” the letter says in part. “This support has been a most significant part of the total effort which has enabled us to develop and fly the Saturn hardware that has done the job on the Apollo mission. It will continue to be of the utmost importance as we fly more Apollo missions and as we now move into other programs.”

According to DSA News, DSA provided more than 76 items to the Apollo 11 mission including high-gain antennas responsible for the TV broadcast of man’s first walk on the moon, space suits, propellants and life sustaining packs worn by the astronauts. First published in January 1963, the newspaper was designed and published twice monthly for the information of personnel at DSA Headquarters. 

“The DSA News archives have historical significance,” said DLA historian Dr. Colin Jay Williams. “They contained stories of DSA activities and of matters of interest to the military and civilian personnel at DSA that have been forgotten.”

In addition to the highly specialized support for the Apollo 11 program, DSA and its depots played a vital role in furnishing a number of items. Approximately 15,000 prime and subcontracts were administered in whole or in part by DSA. NASA delegated maximum administration of its contracts to the 11 DSA centers of administration. 

Many DSA military and civilian personnel supported the Apollo program in contract administration and procurement functions. DSA News reported that the DCAS devoted an excess of one million man-hours in the administration of more than 15,000 NASA contracts and subcontracts. Under the many contract administration delegations from NASA, hundreds of quality assurance personnel in most of the agency’s DCAS had certified that the myriad pieces of precision equipment were perfectly manufactured and would function flawlessly.

Contract administration was service driven before Department of Defense consolidated hundreds of offices under DSA in 1964, Williams explained. 

Like DLA, DCMA reports to the Office of Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.

DSA received many other commendations including a letter from Apollo 11’s Astronaut Michael Collins. Collins wrote a letter to DSA employee Air Force Col. Michael Tashjian thanking him for his efforts to back the Manned Flight Awareness Program and support of personnel who inspected the thousands of hardware items what made up the Apollo 11 mission, known as the Project 60 group which established DCAS in 1965. 

“I want to congratulate the many employees of DSA, who have contributed in one way or another, to the success of the incredible Apollo 11 mission,” wrote the DSA Director at the time, Air Force Lt. Gen. Earl C. Hedlund. “Nothing less than perfection was required for this achievement. May this performance, particularly within Contract Administration Quality Assurance, become a hallmark for all of us in the Defense Supply Agency.”

The Defense Supply Agency was renamed the Defense Logistics Agency on Jan. 1, 1977, to reflect the expanded logistical mission of the agency in non-supply areas. On Sept. 30, 1995, the DLA headquarters and Defense Fuel Support Center moved from Cameron Station to Fort Belvoir, Virginia.