News | Oct. 1, 2020

Oct. 1 recognized as DLA’s foundation date despite debate

By Colin Williams DLA Historian

The Defense Logistics Agency celebrates its birthday Oct. 1, but other dates could have just as easily been chosen. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara decided he needed a supply agency Aug. 31, 1961, and his office issued a directive for one Sept. 12. Other possibilities include Nov. 6, when the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued DLA a charter, and Jan. 1, 1962, the day the agency received supply centers from the services. DLA’s official birthday is Oct. 1, however, because that’s when Army Lt. Gen. Andrew T. McNamara assumed duties as the agency’s first director.

Three other reasons support the Oct. 1 date. First, the Sept. 12 directive set Oct. 1 as the agency’s first day of operations. Lt. Gen. McNamara also signed General Order No. 1 Oct. 1 and the Armed Forces Supply Support Center transferred to the agency Oct. 1.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense raised doubts about DLA’s formation date when it was reported as being Nov. 6 to a congressional committee and the author of an executive department manual in early 1962. OSD’s position was that DSA’s charter, released Nov. 6, included the phrase “is hereby established.” Lt. Gen. McNamara disagreed with the wording, believing it called into question the legality of the decisions he and his staff made during the agency’s first weeks. At his urging, DSA Historian Robert W. Coakley persuaded John A. Wylie, administrative assistant to Secretary McNamara, to address a memorandum to the DSA public affairs officer confirming the agency’s birthdate as Oct. 1, not Nov. 6.

DLA has celebrated Oct. 1 ever since. Today marks the agency’s 59th birthday. In war, peace, and even the current pandemic, DLA has provided supplies to troops at home and abroad, and the nation during natural disasters and emergency declarations.