Inside DOD   Partnerships

Defense Logistics Agency Takes Industry's Pulse During Pandemic

April 9, 2020 | BY CHRIS ERBE, DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Defense Logistics Agency continues to execute its national security mission to support the military with repair parts, fuel, food and more. DLA has been reaching out aggressively to better understand its industry base and support defense companies as they respond to coronavirus disruptions.

"Consistent with the president’s guidelines, 'If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule'," Ellen Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told the defense industrial base in a March 20 memo.

Image of warehouse action with MRAP parts placed in bays.
DLA repairs to ATVs
Artisans use parts procured by the Defense Logistics Agency to repair and upgrade the crew capsules of mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Jan. 12, 2017.
Photo By: Keith Hayes
VIRIN: 190901-D-YE683-027

During this unprecedented crisis, a normal work schedule can be a tall order for some companies. As the main provider of military supplies, DLA has a vested interest in both the state of its current and future contracts and the overall health of the 12,000 companies with which it works. Nearly 9,000 of those suppliers are small businesses with varying capacities to stay financially viable during disruptions brought on by the pandemic. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic won’t change the fact that our suppliers are the lifeblood of the DOD industrial base,” said Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, the agency’s director. “We’re staying on top of what this coronavirus is doing to our industry partners, and we’ll do everything we can to support them as they support us."

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Neiferd, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution NCO in charge, puts away a hose after refueling an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 3, 2020. The 8th LRS fuels management flight’s mission is to verify the quality of all fuel that comes in and out of the base to ensure the 8th Fighter Wing is always mission ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Blair)
8th LRS fuels the mission
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Neiferd, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron, puts away a hose after refueling an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, April 3, 2020. The 8th LRS fuels management flight verifies the quality of all fuel that comes in and out of the base to ensure the 8th Fighter Wing is always mission ready.
Photo By: Senior Airman Jessica Blair
VIRIN: 200403-F-EZ112-0068
 

Communication is key, and DLA has taken a proactive approach in passing on information and assessing the health of partner companies during the crisis. In mid-March, Williams took part in a conference call with representatives from seven industry associations representing more than 4,000 companies, informing them of changes and accommodations DLA had made in response to the virus and listening to their concerns. The organizations represented on the call included the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Defense Industrial Association, the National Defense Transportation Association, the Professional Services Council, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the American Apparel & Footwear Association and SourceAmerica.

"The DLA director also made about 17 personal, one-on-one calls to key defense industry executives,” DLA ombudsman Timothy Stark said. “That was in addition to nearly 400 direct calls made by leaders of DLA’s major subordinate commands who oversee purchases for specific supply chains."

We’re staying on top of what this coronavirus is doing to our industry partners, and we’ll do everything we can to support them as they support us.
Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams

To further assist communication with industry, DLA has optimized analytics and data collection tools to assess impacts to the supply chain, including a new reason code for the post-award request system, which allows industry to highlight contracts where problems exist due to coronavirus impacts and the reason for the problem.

"If you have a contract with us and you have some issue you need to talk to a contracting officer about, PARS is a way for you to submit that information into an automated system so that our contracting officers can take action on it," Stark said.

DLA also created a request-for-information website that allows suppliers to inform the agency of potential impacts to their workforce and their contracts. DLA is already using some of the more than 3,400 RFI responses to help assess the current health of the supplier base.

Man speaks at podium during the 2019 Defense Manufacturing Conference Dec. 3
DLA at DMC
Defense Logistics Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Darrell Williams addresses attendees at the Defense Manufacturing Conference, Dec. 3, 2019. Williams discussed how DLA addresses manufacturing requirements and innovative ways that industry and the Defense Department are working toward solutions.
Photo By: Courtesy
VIRIN: 191203-D-D0441-002

DLA laid the groundwork for close communication with its suppliers well before the coronavirus pandemic. In recent years, the agency established the DLA ombudsman office to facilitate industry outreach and issued an Industry Engagement Plan to emphasize stronger partnerships. The agency also holds yearly demand forecasting summits and industry days to help industry plan for future demand. Supplier surveys and semiannual industry association luncheons further those efforts and provide venues for feedback and discussions of current issues.

"DLA has worked hard to strengthen the partnership between the agency and our industry base,” Williams said. “In this moment of crisis, we are seeing the benefits of that work as we make a determined effort to hear our suppliers and help coordinate the industrial base response to this crisis."