DLA reutilization program supports COVID-19 relief with 2.5 million medical items

By Jake Joy DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

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Nearly 2.5 million medical items in the Defense Logistics Agency’s excess property stock were approved for transfer or donation by the Defense Department and federal coronavirus task force officials through the first week of May.

Originally worth $13.2 million, the items include masks, gowns, gloves, cots, thermometers, face shields and ventilators for military units, law enforcers and federal agencies.

Mission essential workers at worldwide DLA Disposition Services field sites prepared and shipped the property as Reutilization, Transfer and Donation Program employees at the organization’s headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, obtained approval from DOD and federal authorities to release the items.

“It’s definitely a team effort; we can’t do what we do without everyone else,” said Jennifer Lobello, a property disposal specialist and former Marine who normally works case closures in DLA Disposition Services’ Foreign Military Sales Office.

Lobello has helped the RTD crew during disaster relief efforts following hurricanes during her six years with the agency, but said the COVID-19 response poses new challenges. Keeping an accurate tally of the material constantly flowing to military and government customers spread around the world is difficult, she said, because needs are constantly changing. She maintains a detailed list of customer orders and locations by consolidating information that comes in from various sources throughout the day.

“It was a little difficult to find our battle rhythm at first and figure out what kind of report headquarters wanted,” Lobello added. “But the team’s pretty good at flowing with the changes. I think we’re at a pretty good spot right now.”

Property Disposal Specialist Justin Funk said the team sends customers a twice-weekly list of available medical supplies so they can respond with their requests, which are consolidated and prioritized as the team seeks same-day approval to release the items. Each member of the RTD team has a key role in the process, said Funk, who has been with DLA Disposition Services for 10 years.

“We’ve all been in the office for a while. We work well together, and when we need to make a few process tweaks here and there, everyone kind of knows their part. We iron out the issues and then we press on,” he added.

The team has transferred excess medical property to federal agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Postal Service and Native American tribes. States that receive surplus military equipment through the General Services Administration and State Agencies for Surplus Property organizations, which pull items from DLA’s system, have also received excess property.

Cassie Gilbert, a 20-year DLA veteran who coordinates states’ needs, said RTD Program employees are filling out paper requests on states’ behalf and sending them to approval authorities.

“At the beginning, when the majority of requests were coming in, we had to put in a lot of long hours just to keep things going at the speed they were arriving,” she said, adding that the team accommodated some state officials who were willing to travel wider distances to acquire items at military installations.