FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
The Defense Logistics Agency’s Whole of Government Division provides nationwide support to federal and state agencies during natural disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms.
Since 2012, the WOG team has provided items like medical supplies, firefighting equipment, construction materials and fuel during crisis situations. Now, the team is prepared to support the 2020 hurricane season, which started June 1 and ends November 30. But planning is year-round, said DLA Whole of Government Acting Division Chief Dan Strausbaugh.
“Any time that there’s any type of storm brewing out in the ocean, whether in the Atlantic or Pacific, we’re able to provide updates not only within DLA Logistics Operations, but also to the DLA director,” he said.
The DLA liaison officer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who is ordinarily collocated with FEMA counterparts at the National Response Coordination Center headquarters in Washington, D.C., is responsible for providing updates on storm path and intensity to DLA’s Agency Synchronization Operations Center. The updates prepare major subordinate commands to support relief efforts and help senior leaders make decisions about that support.
DLA and FEMA recently monitored Cristobal, an Atlantic storm that that made landfall in Louisiana June 7. Although Cristobal was downgraded to a tropical depression, Strausbaugh said DLA and FEMA were ready to respond.
All requirements and payments to DLA from FEMA are documented through mission assignments, and an interagency agreement stipulates general terms and conditions such as how payments for DLA services or commodities are made, Strausbaugh added.
“DLA made a list of the commodities and pre-scripted mission assignments that have been requested by FEMA in past disasters. This list enables DLA and FEMA to have a mission assignment already drafted so the process is streamlined,” he said, adding that the process speeds efforts to get critical supplies to survivors.
“We continue to expand our pre-scripted mission assignments, which are all vetted with the major subordinate commands’ supply chains to ensure they can support with different commodities and services we provide during hurricane season,” Strausbaugh continued.
DLA supports natural disaster relief efforts through the Defense Support of Civil Authorities process, through which the Office of the Secretary of Defense creates execution orders outlining the leading military and federal agencies, usually U.S. Northern Command and FEMA. The agreement with FEMA involves the Stafford Act, a presidential authority designed to marshal federal assistance to state and local governments in the wake of natural disasters. The agency also has interagency agreements with federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.
DLA services to FEMA and other entities during disasters are managed through incident support bases, which serve as staging locations for fuel and distribution management in locations close to the incident.
Last year at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, FEMA and DLA employees prepared trailers of food, water and other supplies following Hurricane Dorian, for example.
An added challenge this year is providing support during a global pandemic, but Strausbaugh said changes in DLA’s readiness and response have been minimal.
“There will have to be some social distancing and people will have to wear personal protective equipment in order to support a disaster,” he said.
Overall, Strausbaugh said it’s “business as usual” regarding DLA’s support to FEMA and other federal agencies because the agency has developed repeatable processes for responding to contingencies.
“Through multiple national-level exercises with DOD and partner agencies, the Whole of Government Division is able to practice and sometimes make mistakes so we can learn from them,” he said. “This allows an improved process without mistakes when it counts the most.”