BATTLE CREEK, Michigan –
Many government and health care agencies continue receiving medical supplies needed to support the COVID-19 response from a Defense Department team that manages the military’s excess equipment.
Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services’ global workforce screens excess medical property turned in by military units and earmarks usable supplies that are in short supply nationwide. The data is then reviewed by the DLA COVID-19 Task Force, which works with officials from DOD, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine who receives the items.
Task force members have so far guided the transfer of over 2.5 million excess items worth over $13.6 million from DLA to military and federal customers, filling 2,527 orders.
“It’s been said that not all heroes wear capes, and this pandemic has proven that,” said DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon. “It’s not just our 300-plus employees who still report to our sites to operate equipment and do what cannot be done online; it’s also hundreds more who work from wherever they can, tirelessly searching for the items people need while continuing many other non-pandemic tasks still crucial in support of the warfighter.”
Despite reduced operations at DLA Disposition Services field sites, employees are accepting and reassigning a wide range of excess material. Items are first made available to other military units and includes personal protective equipment shipped to Pacific-based troops. In April, Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital in California received 2,680 N95 masks, for example, and 50,000 masks were distributed to crews of three U.S. aircraft carriers.
Excess items are then offered to federal agencies. Almost 200 items including medical gloves went to FEMA in early May, adding to previous transfers of personal protective equipment.
State agencies and local governments typically work with their respective state agencies to request surplus property like the 400 types of excess items sent this month to the Florida Department of Management Services from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Officials there said medical equipment including stethoscopes, pulse oximeters and protective masks benefited communities like Dixie County.
First responders such as law enforcement agencies and firefighters also have access to excess property like vehicles, tools and computers useful in daily operations and the COVID-19 response. While DLA helps with law enforcement agencies through the Law Enforcement Support Office, the Reutilization, Transfer and Donation program at DLA Disposition Services partners with the Forest Service to help firefighters to acquire items they need.
Indiana’s Scott County Sheriff Jerry Goodin used tents he acquired through the Law Enforcement Support Office for his community’s needs and shared them with National Guard units that needed them for training. One of the tents and an excess heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit also obtained through DLA is being used as a potential county jail quarantine area.
“We want to be prepared for any possible needs we may encounter in the future due to the coronavirus or any other disaster that could hit us,” Goodin said. “It’s a lot easier to explain why we did something to be prepared than to explain why we did not do anything.”
The state also benefitted from an excess Humvee Randolph County Fire Chief Joe Bertram acquired for his mostly-volunteer fire department. It was added to the county’s roster of emergency ambulances for COVID-19 response as well.
“That gives us a total of eight ambulances available in the whole county,” Bertram said, adding that Randolph County spans 400 square miles. “Since it can be easily decontaminated, the vehicle is also available to the county coroner.”
Recipients pay only for transporting items from the site where they’re located plus maintenance or conversion costs. Schools still in session during the pandemic are also using excess information technology items received from DLA Disposition Services’ Computers for Learning program.
“We get to see that DLA can enhance education across the nation by donating excess computers to a school district that might not otherwise be able to afford them without raising taxes,” Cannon said.
Visit the DLA website for more information on the programs and services DLA Disposition Services offers.