Quality assurance representatives at Defense Logistics Agency Energy are modifying procedures to ensure military fuel remains on-spec during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are closely synchronizing fuel movements with suppliers, and in some cases where there is an acceptable level of risk to the supply chain, using remote oversight methods to overcome restricted travel and social distancing requirements.
“QAR travel is essential in protecting the interest of the government and minimizing mission failure and government liability,” said DLA Energy Europe & Africa Quality Manager Michael Crutcher. “Off-specification product, if not detected, can increase problems exponentially once procured and moved through the supply chain to Energy customers.”
International travel restrictions and border closures enacted to control the spread of COVID-19 require QARs to have special travel authorization to oversee fuel movements.
“The only time we conduct an on-site visit right now is if there is a high-risk problem or procurement that needs to be physically worked to prevent potential downstream mission impacts,” said DLA Energy Americas East Quality Manager Mike van Dongen.
For missions where travel is deemed essential, QARs are taking precautions to enhance their safety including wearing protective equipment, conducting pre- and post-travel screening and following military travel procedures.
“Even then, we are working with stakeholders to look for any possible alternatives and, most importantly, ensuring the QAR is comfortable with going on site and can do it safely,” van Dongen said.
In Italy, fuel movements scheduled for Aviano Air Base and Camp Darby required a QAR on site to coordinate delivery through Italian customs clearance offices.
“A limited number of our QARs are authorized U.S. government customs agents and can sign for our fuel shipments in Italy,” Crutcher said. “Because this mission required a five-hour drive passing through an affected area, we don’t want people out on the roads unless absolutely necessary.”
As an alternative to being on site, some teams are remotely overseeing fuel movements. In Kaiserslautern, Germany, QARs Tony Selby and Mike Wilson wrote detailed procedures to remotely load a specialty jet fuel on board a U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command vessel.
“There were concerns with loading fuel without a QAR present,” Crutcher said. “So, the team reached out to our commercial partners and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense to lay the groundwork for remote QAR oversight, and then they remotely monitored every phase of the operation.”
The March 20 operation was a success, becoming the first in the European region to remotely load this specialty fuel, Crutcher said.
In Spain, QAR Dustin Wilkerson couldn’t travel to Algeciras because local police were stopping vehicles and issuing fines.
“We didn’t want to take the chance that the QAR wouldn’t make it to his destination,” Crutcher explained. “So, Dustin issued exact loading procedures to refinery personnel and implemented tight coordination with third party inspectors to load fuel on a vessel.”
For refineries that are major fuel suppliers and North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense fuel support points, Crutcher’s regional team developed a mitigation plan including the use of temporary alternative release procedures. ARP letters can be issued to major suppliers and depots to allow fuel shipments at refineries and depots to continue without a QAR’s physical presence.
“Past performance and risk assessments are factors considered in authorizing an ARP,” said DLA Energy Europe & Africa Quality Program Manager Quentin Ayers. “In an emergency situation such as the COVID-19 outbreak, ARPs allow essential fuel shipments to continue uninterrupted.”
DLA Energy Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Albert Miller is proud of the teams for taking prudent measures to limit COVID-19’s spread while balancing mission requirements.
“Protecting our people remains our priority,” he said. “The virus is unique to every situation and every location, so we examine each need against warfighter demands.”