Social distancing due to the coronavirus didn’t deter Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Clothing and Textiles supply chain from getting vital information to American manufacturers by hosting a virtual Dress Clothing Industry Day April 8.
Approximately 100 DLA employees, clothing manufacturers and military service representatives participated in the online event to discuss the state of the American dress clothing industry and upcoming uniform requirements.
“We wanted to have this conference to discuss our items and upcoming opportunities – not only to keep our current industry base going, but we are looking to expand and hoping that through this conference we’ll be able to make connections with some new vendors,” said C&T Dress Clothing Division Chief Sharon Piecyk.
Staying engaged with industry partners amidst global response to COVID-19 is a top priority for DLA.
“We do need to take advantage of technology to be able to continue our mission,” Piecyk said. “This [virtual meeting] enabled us to have an important conference while maintaining social distancing. It may not have been perfect, but I think we were able to reach a wide audience and give them relevant information.
“The [American] dress clothing industry is a very fragile industrial base. We’ve lost several businesses over the years,” Piecyk said.
The number of vendors DLA relies on for clothing such as dress shirts has dwindled to less than half in the past 10 years, she explained.
“We’re looking to reverse that trend and get more participants in this industrial base,” added C&T Supplier Operations Director Steven Merch. “The ultimate success of this meeting is not the number of participants, but in how many more players we add [to our vendors list].”
Merch described the dress uniform as a matter of distinction, honor and integrity for military service members throughout their careers.
“It’s definitely a crucial item for our service members, our ultimate customers, and we at DLA are constantly engaged with the industry to support their needs,” Merch said.
DLA provides military dress items including outerwear, dress shirts, trousers, skirts, berets, Dixie hats, flags and heraldic items. In fiscal 2019, C&T provided nearly $160 million worth of items across its dress clothing product lines, said Ashley Liddle, dress uniform supervisor and event host.
During the conference, C&T contracting officers and military service representatives briefed upcoming requirements and procurement opportunities including the Army green service uniform.
The AGSU’s design is based off the WWII Army officer version of the uniform including a green coat, taupe pants, a garrison cap and leather shoes. DLA will assume sustainment production for ASGU components after the Army completes the initial rollout, which has been delayed by about 60 days due to COVID-19 response efforts, said Blaise Liess, an acquisition support representative from PEO Soldier.
“The Army is really excited about this uniform,” he said. “We continue to work with our industry partners to get this uniform out to soldiers as quick as possible.”
Merch also encouraged vendors to keep lines of communication open as vendors are impacted by closures and employee absences.
“I know there are a lot of challenges out there now and we’re here as partners for you,” Merch said. “Let us know what we can do on our part to help out.”