Automated data drives DLA, DOD decisions on COVID-19 medical supplies

By Beth Reece 

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Automated supply and demand data on personal protective equipment needed in the COVID-19 response is giving Defense Department officials a unified picture of stock levels and requirements across DOD and federal agencies, said the Defense Logistics Agency’s metrics integration chief.

“Open reporting on orders, shipments, back orders and expected delivery dates lets leaders know whether there’s enough material on hand to meet requirements for the next 30 to 60 days,” Sean Ahrens said, adding that the data can drive informed decisions to adjust orders if necessary. 

DLA began sharing daily status reports on personal protective equipment like masks and ventilators with DOD in April for inclusion in Advana, a digital analytics platform the department developed last year to track everything from finance to readiness. 

The tool is now being used to track stocks of key medical items owned by DLA, the military services and geographic combatant commands, as well as federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency. The data needed to assess the department’s personal protective equipment posture would otherwise be scattered, said Navy CPT Diana Dalphonse, chief of the Strategic Initiative Group’s Strategy Branch for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Logistics Directorate. 

“It gives leaders a quick snapshot of what we have and what we need both in the United States and internationally,” she said. “If DOD as a whole appears short on a certain item, leaders can collaborate with HHS and FEMA to get allotted additional supplies,” she said. 

Test swabs are among the items DOD has received from federal agencies because of the data, which has also shown areas where DLA and DOD have ample supply despite shortages by federal agencies.

“For example, DOD has some availability of N95 respirators, and we were able to issue 20 million to HHS and FEMA to support the national effort,” Dalphonse added. “By seeing our entire posture of medical supplies, we’re able to view gaps and risks as we work to solve low stock levels supporting national efforts.” 

DLA employees anticipated greater demand for medical supplies in February and started compiling data on 17 items the agency provided during the 2014 Ebola pandemic in Africa. Ahrens began sharing that data with DOD in daily spreadsheets but said he expects it to be electronically fed into Advana soon via DLA’s Enterprise Data Warehouse, which presents real-time metrics on key weapons systems and platforms along with the DLA Service Readiness Dashboard.  

Accurate data on ownership and location of the supplies became critical as worldwide demand grew and multiple federal agencies relied on the same vendors to produce millions of items, Ahrens added. Supporting concurring requests from HHS and FEMA also complicated data management. 

Advana users can customize views with different data sets, which include breakouts by location, ownership, and order and delivery status. Details on pandemic and war reserve stocks owned by DHS are also available.

“With high demand for so much stuff nowadays, you really need to have an accurate picture of everything available to make informed decisions on whether to tap into reserve stocks,” Ahrens said. 

DLA employees have access to data on personal protective equipment in the DLA Dashboard and can view the same details now in Advana. That helps them understand the types of information being analyzed at the secretary of defense and joint staff levels, Ahrens continued.

The agency is also working with DOD to duplicate the data share in future disaster support efforts such as hurricanes.