FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
Legal experts have played a key part in the Defense Logistics Agency’s efforts to provide COVID-19 supplies for military units, federal agencies and the Strategic National Stockpile since March 2020, especially at DLA Troop Support, which contributed a predominant amount of the agency’s $3.68 billion in support until now.
Legal teams have provided custom support in pre- and post-award processes to three DLA Troop Support supply chains – clothing and textiles, construction and equipment, and medical – that provided items like personal protective equipment, antigen test kits, disposable coveralls and gowns, and other lifesaving supplies.
“We reviewed procurements from the beginning of solicitation for items like masks and gowns all the way through actual performance of the contract, where we remained integrated with our clients to ensure the vendors had the capability and capacity to perform according to contract specifications,” Chief Counsel Michael Wilson said.
Wilson’s legal teams ensure multi-million dollar contract awards comply with laws and regulations such as the Trade Agreements Act and Berry Amendment. The Trade Agreements Act, for example, requires requisitions for certain dollar amounts and product types to be open to worldwide TAA partners. In the case of COVID-19, however, White House and Defense Department officials wanted to bolster the U.S. industrial base. Attorneys helped DLA submit a waiver request to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to allow DLA to provide better opportunities for U.S. companies to compete for COVID-19 contracts.
Nationwide shortages of COVID-19 supplies and urgent needs of organizations like the Department of Health and Human Services to get those supplies to hard-hit communities as well as nursing homes and schools also meant contracts had to be awarded in as little as two weeks rather than several months. And intense interest in winning potential contracts also yielded up to 600 offers for some solicitations.
Wilson described contract administration for companies working with the federal government for the first time as intense, requiring close oversight that was more difficult than usual with travel halted during the pandemic. Virtual industry events gave DLA the opportunity to explain processes and the laws and regulations that govern federal procurement.
DLA Troop Support’s contracting officials also leaned on the legal team for wider-ranging support than usual during the pandemic, he added.
“Sometimes they wanted to bounce ideas off us that were more business-related because the situation created by the pandemic was so complex. Our guidance incorporated legal perspectives and took into account associated risks to the agency,” he said, adding that his team may review current market research to advise contracting officers on decisions like whether to solicit for full and open competition, limited competition or as a sole-source acquisition.
The legal team helps contracting teams detect fraud, mitigate issues related to fraud or business integrity, and assist investigators looking at DLA contracts. Labor and employment issues are another area attorneys played a role, informing and advising DLA Troop Support’s 2,000 employees on pandemic-related issues like reconstitution, reasonable accommodation requests, and workplace practices such as wearing facemasks and social distancing.
Wilson said he’s proud of his team’s hard work and dedication through the past 15 months.
“They’ve tackled each challenge with viable legal solutions to meet urgent requirements for the nation. I’m humbled to serve alongside such a phenomenal group of legal professionals,” he said.
Members of the DLA Troop Support legal team providing COVID-19 support are:
- Clothing and textiles – Allison Eck and Amanda Stone
- Medical – Katherine McCulloch, Jared Weissberger, Eric Christiansen, Mariam Ibrahim and Gale Furman
- Construction and equipment – Nicole Wilmoth and Andrew McGuire
- Pandemic-related investigations – Michael Delaney
- Personnel matters – Victoria Gulasarian, Joseph Guerra and Gale Furman