FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Federal agencies’ growing reliance on the Defense Logistics Agency to provide critical supplies following hurricanes and other disasters makes pre-planning critical, the agency’s deputy executive director of operations said June 9 during a four-hour, online Hurricane Academics forum.
“Who do we identify to go forward to act as surge LNOs [liaison officers]? How do we leverage our DLA commanders out in the regions? These are the kinds of questions that mature before, during and after an event,” Kevin Kachinski said in opening remarks to about 200 participants from the Agency Synchronization Operations Center, DLA Rapid Deployment Teams and major subordinate commands.
The event, now in its second year, provided an overview of how DLA supports whole-of-government partners during hurricane response and covered topics like the National Response Framework, ASOC Current Operations Branch roles and processes, DLA expeditionary capabilities and lessons learned. DLA has provided hurricane support since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Establishing templates for briefings and situation reports as well as battle books with points of contacts can help smooth DLA’s communications with partners like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Northern Command, Kachinksi said. And as DLA’s reputation for delivering results attracts new potential partners, he said the agency must continue defining priorities while simultaneously demonstrating its capabilities.
DLA’s support for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts are coordinated at the ASOC at Fort Belvoir, Va., in the same way as contingency support for deployed troops. Support is provided through Defense Support of Civil Authorities processes and execution orders created by the Office of the Secretary of Defense that outline leading military and federal agencies, typically FEMA and NORTHCOM.
Although DLA LNOs with organizations like FEMA and NORTHCOM help track storms and subsequent needs, response is an ASOC-coordinated effort involving major subordinate commands and deployment teams that provide on-the-ground support to first responders, distribution capabilities, disposal remediation and even information technology assets.
Well-established ordering systems, long-standing agreements with other organizations, and lessons learned from events like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy have helped the agency fine-tune most aspects of disaster support, Kachinski said. Areas like leveraging support from DLA reservists and defense manufacturers need more work, however.
“We leverage the industrial base almost completely for some of this support, so we need to know what the ceiling is for some of our contracts so we don’t overextend ourselves,” Kachinski added.
Requests for DLA supplies and services enter the ASOC as work orders known as mission assignments that address short-term needs to save lives and protect property, said Bob Gagnon, DLA’s LNO to FEMA. The agency has 21 pre-scripted mission assignments for items ranging from bottled water and meals to cots and fuel, but actual requirements differ for each season and storm.
“We’ve got to go through mission analysis with our partners to demonstrate and help them understand what our capabilities are,” Kachinski said, pointing to the 2018 hurricane season as a good example of a series of complex storms that affected multiple regions and triggered multi-pronged responses from military commands and federal agencies.
The 2020 hurricane season was the most active on record with 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes, six of which were Category 3 or 4. Despite the activity, DLA spent just $44.7 million in support of that season compared to $126.2 million during the 2018 season. Experts predict the current season will be above average, added Navy Cdr. Billy Coffeen, ASOC NORTHCOM desk officer.
Kachinski said he appreciates employees’ contributions to the agency’s hurricane support.
“I want to personally thank you because if we do have to exercise all of our support in a robust fashion like with Superstorm Sandy it gets exhausting,” he said. “We’ve delivered phenomenal results though, and I have no doubt we’ll do it again if we’re called upon to do it again this hurricane season.”