News | Dec. 31, 2020

DLA Distribution: A look back on 2020

By DLA Distribution Public Affairs

As the year 2020 winds down, Defense Logistics Agency Distribution looks back on some of the great work done by our employees in support to the warfighter and military and federal agency operations around the world.

DLA Distribution support to Operation Deep Freeze kicked off in January this year with what was to be one of our busiest on the books when DLA Distribution San Diego, California’s satellite site at Port Hueneme, California, completed its annual packing, packaging, preservation and marking mission in support of the National Science Foundation. Operation Deep Freeze is part of the Defense Department’s commitment to deliver supplies to scientists participating as members of the NSF’s mission to conduct critical scientific research on and around the continent of Antarctica, as well as other locations south of the equator, to include Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, the South Pole and Christchurch, New Zealand.

In February, DLA Distribution’s weeklong agency review scored high marks and identified efficiencies to improve overall agency productivity. Audit review, management and responsibility was a large focus of DLA Distribution in support to DLA agency review. The reviews are beneficial to the agency in a number of ways that align with DLA’s strategic mission. They contribute to process excellence by identifying the best qualities of each MSC, followed by the implementation of those practices across the enterprise when applicable.

This year’s AMR marks the third year of the DLA Headquarters implemented, enterprise-wide initiative and the second bi-annual review for DLA Distribution. Additionally, the AMR is designed to isolate trends and identify best practices across the agency while strengthening DLA’s overall performance. The review provides a mechanism for DLA to isolate and respond to critical operational concerns to ensure sustained auditability.

Before the Passover and Easter holidays, DLA Distribution worked with DLA Troop Support to ship ceremonial items in support of those religious holidays to deployed troops. For more than 20 years DLA has been involved with the yearly distribution of ashes, wine and palm leaves to as many as 50 foreign locations. Whether troops attended Easter mass in a tent in Afghanistan or Passover service on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, chances are DLA was in some way involved in the process.

Beginning in March, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to DLA Distribution across the entire organization of operations, distribution and the workforce. Operating during a worldwide pandemic forced DLA Distribution to find ways to continue to operate and support the warfighters and federal agency partners, in a more safely controlled environment. Some of the measures to improve the safety of the workforce include changes to gate entrance procedures and the purchasing of hand sanitizers, spray cleaners, disinfectant wipes, masks and gloves. Below are some examples of DLA Distribution’s COVID-19 support from across the organization:

        • DLA Distribution Norfolk provided mission support to USNS Comfort bound for NYC. DDNV started receiving material March 24 and received upward of 50 pallets from Cardinal Health freight, in addition to numerous pallets of food, consumables, etc. for USNS Comfort’s departure to New York City, New York.

        • At the request of U.S. Army Europe and Installation Management Command Europe, DLA Distribution Europe's Theater Consolidation and Shipping Point prepared 19,200 bottles of hand sanitizer and 19,200 American Red Cross comfort kits for shipment to soldiers, civilians and family members throughout the continent. DLA Distribution Europe also partnered with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command to ship Red Cross materials.

        • Employees at DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, processed numerous COVID-19 test kits, ventilators, hand sanitizers, masks, cots, hand-washing stations, industrial goggles, industrial face shields and breathing sets.    The DDSP Transportation Services Team has also shipped over 72,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat and nearly 1.1 million shelf-stable meals to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. These mission sets demonstrate DDSP’s ability to serve as a key enabler to the armed services and whole of government throughout this global crisis. Additionally, the amount of equipment DDSP processes with priority shipping, especially COVID-19 medical supplies, increases daily as new requirements emerge.

        • DLA Distribution San Diego, California, provided mission essential support by providing critical supplies to the USNS MERCY which was docked at the Port of Los Angeles. The ship and its medical crew were deployed to alleviate the load on the local health care system by taking onboard non-COVID-19 patients. 

        • DLA Distribution Yokosuka, Japan, met the coronavirus challenge head-on, providing PPE to 21 ships in the Pacific. Finding significant PPE in stock, DDYJ employees collaborated with 7th Fleet Personnel to distribute over 16,000 face masks, 186 thousand gloves, 1.5 thousand Tyvek-like coveralls and over 600 goggles to ships from Forward Deployment Naval Force Yokosuka, Japan, FDNF Sasebo, Japan, the USS Nimitz Strike Group and the USS Theodore Roosevelt to help control the transmission of the novel coronavirus. 

        • DLA Distribution Bahrain continues supplying U.S. forces in the Middle East despite COVID-19-related border restrictions by using sea routes instead of transporting via cargo trucks. The change allows DDBN to forward cargo to countries that are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. DDNB staff took on additional responsibilities to complete critical missions because border restrictions also limited DDNB’s ability to replace departing employees. Work schedules, facility sterilization and increased social distancing measures were put in place to help prevent virus spread among U.S. and foreign national workers.

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Keith D. Reventlow assumed command of DLA Distribution Headquarters July 21. The agency was able to maintain military traditions, completing nine virtual change of command ceremonies for distribution centers within and outside the continental United States, while maintaining the health and safety of co-workers, family and friends. The time-honored ceremonies were conducted using video and web conferencing technology, connecting the DLA Distribution Headquarters with locations throughout the world.

DLA Distribution Norfolk, Virginia’s Pier 8 was a hotbed of activity this summer in preparation of Operation Pacer Goose, the annual resupply mission to Thule Air Base, a remote U.S. Air Force base in the Arctic region of Greenland. This year, DLA distribution process workers spent four days loading the Schuyler Line Navigation Company’s Magothy cargo ship with essential supplies including COVID-19 personal protective equipment before it set sail to the air base July 23.

In early August, DLA Headquarters Acquisition Team requested DLA Distribution’s assistance with support in executing 100% inventory of strategic materials stored at the DLA Strategic Materials warehouses in Scotia, New York, and Hammond, Indiana. Since the mission was time critical, the DLA Distribution Expeditionary team was deployed to New York and Indiana in two separate teams. While the DDXX team typically deploys to support military contingencies and humanitarian assistance projects, they also deploy for urgent mission requirements.

DLA Distribution’s modernization efforts in 2020 brought many improvements with the way we do business. Under its modernization initiative, the DLA Distribution team implemented a goods to man strategy, maximizing the use of wireless and mobile technologies coupled with industry standard and audit ready processes inherent to a new warehouse management system. The warehouse management system pilot was initiated in June 2018 at DLA Distribution Corpus Christi, Texas. The effort will save the agency an estimated $107 million with a return on investment in 4.3 years.

Autonomous/semi-autonomous vehicles automating material movement, Voice technology, tablets, printers and a Real Time Location System are all part of the robust modernization plan to bring the Distribution warehouses into the 21st century. The initial rollout of the various modernization concepts will focus on eight distribution centers with over 1 million transactions per year as appropriate to meet mission requirements. The DLA information technology team is focusing on issues surrounding cybersecurity as they relate to the new technology, as well as the costs to both implement and sustain the modernization strategy. The team highlighted that all efforts are geared toward improving readiness in support of the warfighter and that information technology is essential to the implementation. Specifically, a Wi-Fi backbone is essential to the realization of efficiencies to help achieve DLA’s defense reform commitment and the continual goal of an unmodified audit opinion in 2026.

The cornerstone project of the strategy – modernizing DDSP’s Eastern Distribution Center and the largest warehouse within the Defense Department – is moving forward, while maintaining COVID-19 precautions. Meanwhile, a new DLA Distribution warehouse under construction at the U.S. Army Storage Facility on Camp Carroll, South Korea, is over 90% complete and on track for completion in February 2021. Construction of the two-story, 250,000-square-foot warehouse began in March 2019 on a large vacant sand lot. The new facility replaces a 1960s era building and will be the most up-to-date building in DLA Distribution and on Camp Carroll.

In response to the defense wide review conducted Dec. 17, 2019, DLA Distribution assumed oversight of three Defense Security Cooperation Agency Humanitarian Assistance Program Excess Property sites in August. The alignment, a current and on-going effort, will not involve the movement or exchange of material, but, with DLA Distribution assuming oversight, is projected to save taxpayers upward of 18% of the current storage and distribution costs.
DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California, began packing and distributing 6 million COVID-19 rapid test kits in November on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. Test components, which are being produced by a small business in San Diego, are being distributed nationwide to medical facilities and Defense Department customers worldwide through March 2021.

In early December, Retired Army Col. Perry L. Knight became DLA’s newest member of the Senior Executive Service and DLA Distribution’s sixth deputy commander and Gene Surmacz became the new chief of staff.

Closing out the year, DLA Distribution began shipping Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to Defense Department employees outside the continental U.S. and the deployed U.S. Navy Fleet Dec. 22. in support of Operation Warp Speed. As the Defense Department’s storage and distribution provider, DLA Distribution has six U.S.-based and four overseas distribution centers capable of handling the temperature sensitive cargo. While DLA Distribution has delivered the seasonal flu vaccine to the military for 20 years, the COVID-19 vaccine mission requires additional measures to sustain the proper temperature. Refrigerated trucks, dry-ice, gel packs, specialized cold-chain management training for employees and specialized cold gear including insulated suits, gloves, face masks and boots are provided for employees to wear while working with the shipments inside the temperature-controlled storage containers. COVID-19 vaccines continue to ship to deployed troops as the unprecedented year winds to a close.

As 2021 begins, DLA Distribution will continue to provide the warfighter with agile, global storage and distribution services, delivering the right things…at the right place, at the right time.