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Defense Logistics Agency brings speed, flexibility to domestic emergency relief
When disaster strikes the homeland, as it did when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in October 2012, military services and federal agencies band together to save lives and provide critical relief efforts to survivors. Working behind the scenes to make sure these agencies have the equipment and supplies they need is the Defense Logistics Agency, which brings its unique capabilities as America’s combat logistics provider to the nation’s emergency relief efforts.
Although it is best known for providing supplies and equipment to U.S. service members around the globe, DLA brings many capabilities and partnerships to assist local public safety agencies in emergencies and relief efforts in the U.S.
In the case of Hurricane Sandy, DLA shifted to 24/7 operations as the storm approached the East Coast and soon after it passed sent more than 50 employees to places like the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and the New York City mayor’s office. DLA worked closely with FEMA to identify and fill requirements for food, water, fuel, generators and other items. By the end of relief efforts, the agency had provided more than 6.3 million meals, 72,000 liters of bottled water, 173,000 blankets, 4,000 cots, 19,000 maps, 200 hypothermia prevention kits, six portable X-ray machines, 9 million gallons of fuel, and removal of 75 million pounds of trash and debris.
Service members distribute fuel to Hurricane Sandy survivors at New York City’s Staten Island Armory. DLA Energy provided fuel to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be distributed at armories throughout New York and northern New Jersey. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy)
There were several reasons DLA was able to provide relief supplies so quickly and efficiently after Hurricane Sandy, one being its interagency agreement with FEMA, which allows for direct coordination between the two agencies without any middlemen. This agreement was created as a direct result of lessons learned during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the two agencies worked on duplicate efforts. It allows FEMA to come directly to DLA with requirements after state and local resources are exhausted, said Dan Strausbaugh, DLA’s liaison officer to FEMA. DLA’s extensive supply network and expertise in logistics makes it a prime candidate for supporting FEMA’s efforts, he noted.
“DLA has an awesome ability that rests in networking,” Strausbaugh said. “We have stocks on hand at 18 distribution centers in the United States. We can react with the closest distribution center to that impacted area and start sending backup reserves afterwards to keep the sustainment of support going by relying on an enormous network of capabilities.”
DLA’s ability to sustain support over the long term relies not only on its distribution centers, but also on its partnerships with private-sector suppliers. “What DLA validated was that there is an overwhelming private-sector solution to a lot of these problems, and the fact that we could get involved as quickly as we did was instrumental,” said Ralph Laurie, the DLA liaison officer at U.S. Northern Command. “That has bled over into how we plan for military support and a much better appreciation for what the private sector can do.”
DLA has partnerships with contingency contractors across its nine supply chains covering areas throughout the U.S. and around the world. Working with these contractors during a crisis requires DLA to coordinate carefully with FEMA and other federal agencies, something the agency practices regularly to strengthen its partnerships.
Planning for future operations is something DLA does regularly in its support to military customers, and it’s no different in the area of domestic emergency preparedness. With liaison officers at U.S. Northern Command, FEMA, U.S. Transportation Command and other major federal agencies, DLA always works to ensure its partners understand the agency’s capabilities and to integrate those capabilities into their disaster plans. At U.S. Northern Command, for example, Laurie is involved in the command’s planning for major catastrophes and uses the command’s playbooks for early disaster response to better inform DLA leaders of possible requirements. At FEMA, Strausbaugh has integrated DLA into FEMA’s pre-scripted mission assignments, which are planning documents that outline the different commodities DLA can support. Those pre-scripted mission assignments allow FEMA to quickly determine what assets DLA can provide and order them quickly, without back-and-forth questioning or overlapping efforts with other agencies.
“We have no time when things happen in this area of operations,” Laurie said. “We have no time to sit back and wait for nice comfortable requirements. We need to look at DLA as part of the whole-of-government solution, and there’s an appreciation that we’re a big part of it.”
Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., DLA has about 25,000 employees worldwide and supports more than 2,440 weapon systems. For more information, see www.dla.mil
- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via DLA, 10/20/14)