News | May 19, 2021

Global pandemic support, future initiatives top Global Town Hall agenda

By Beth Reece

The Defense Logistics Agency’s role in operations like the Afghanistan drawdown and its ability to provide critical supplies for Americans and other nations during the pandemic show there is an increasing awareness and demand for the agency’s capabilities, the DLA director said during a prerecorded Global Town Hall May 18. 

“We don’t know what the next crisis or the next requirement will be, but our scope, scale and skills indicate that we will be asked to provide support whatever it is,” Navy Vice Adm. Michelle Skubic said. 

The event featured updates from senior leaders on the agency’s approach to extremism as well as details on DLA’s fiscal 2020 accomplishments, global operations and COVID-19 support summaries, and a look at future initiatives including the Digital Business Transformation that will reshape information technology systems and processes. 

Skubic described the agency’s new 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, which has five lines of effort, as a blueprint for enabling DLA to meet new global challenges while improving military readiness and customer experience. 

“Any good plan evolves with the environment and that includes one for an agency like ours that has such a complex group of customers,” she said, adding that DLA support reaches beyond the Defense Department to include federal and international partners. 

DLA Vice Director Brad Bunn outlined recent achievements such as DLA Disposition Service’s work with Army Forces Command turning in 110,000 items at 20 installations and DLA Aviation’s success facilitating 100% production-line capability for aircraft at Air Force and Navy depots. He also highlighted the completion of the 2020 Supplier Survey, in which almost 3,000 companies showed rising favorability in three of four categories. And in spite of supply chain disruptions, the agency also maintained 95% material availability for the nuclear and space enterprises. 

In global operations, DLA recently completed delivery of 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for DOD employees outside the continental United States and deployed with the U.S. Navy Fleet, Deputy Director of Logistics Operations Kristin French said. International COVID-19 support is also strong with supplies such as N95 masks, oxygen concentrators and rapid test kits shipped to India. 

“In Brazil and Paraguay we provided pharmaceuticals, and in Haiti, Paraguay and Panama we provided field hospitals,” French said. The agency is evaluating requests from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, she added. 

The Sept. 11 deadline for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan is a prime focus for DLA Troop Support, DLA Energy and DLA Disposition Services as officials plan the curtailment of food and fuel support in addition to equipment retrogrades. At the same time, DLA is preparing for hurricane and wildfire seasons.

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. David Sanford, who has helped coordinate whole-of-government efforts to provide pandemic supplies as director of the COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force and now the Supply Chain Advisory Group, highlighted early challenges with personal protective equipment. Demands for basic items like masks and gloves exceeded pre-pandemic requirements by over 400 times and quickly exposed the nation’s limited medical industry, he said. 

“What we found was 80 to 85% of the stuff was made overseas and this was a global pandemic, so it wasn’t just the United States fighting for supplies,” Sanford added. 

He credited DLA acquisition professionals for using preexisting long-term contracts and other creative contracting tools to help acquire everything from test kits and gloves to hand sanitizers and ventilators. The agency also helped build a strong testing capacity and is working with U.S. businesses to increase the national industrial base. 

“Every time you turn the TV on and see something being done with COVID, especially on the supply side, you as DLA had a portion of that,” he said. “There’s very little I could point to that you weren’t involved in.”

DLA Information Operations Director George Duchak also spoke about the agency’s IT and cybersecurity goals. Through the Digital Business Transformation, DLA expects enhanced IT capabilities, advanced analytics and automation, improved cybersecurity and technology governance. The effort includes a shift to cloud computing that Duchak said will give employees near-term benefits such as faster processing.

In response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent lift of mask mandates, Billie Keeler, acting DLA Human Resources director, said employees can expect DLA-specific guidance in the coming days. His staff is working with safety and legal officials to guide employees’ return to the workplace. 

“Employees who are scheduled to return to the workplace will do so incrementally, and the fitness program for most employees will be reinstated when conditions support that,” he said, adding that social distancing rules continue to apply according to each health-protection condition level. More information on DLA’s pandemic response and employee guidance is available at www.dla.mil/Info/Coronavirus/.