By Beth Reece
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 3, 2009 - President Barack Obama's call for another 30,000 troops to deploy to Afghanistan came as no surprise to Defense Logistics Agency planners. One day after the president's announcement, DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Alan Thompson described how the agency's three strategic focus areas – warfighter support enhancement, stewardship excellence and work force development – will support the troop surge.
Just as DLA supply centers and support teams worked months in advance to pre-position items for nearly 20,000 troops who deployed to southern Afghanistan last summer, logisticians have spent the past several months working with U.S. Central Command and U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials to plan support for even more forces, Thompson said to a standing-room-only crowd at the Defense Logistics 2009 conference here yesterday.
Thompson told the assembled military members and defense contractors that representatives across all of DLA's supply chains have been involved in the planning effort. Defense Supply Center Philadelphia -- which provides food, construction material, medical items, clothing and individual equipment -- has employees on the ground working with local subsistence prime vendors to provide additional fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries.
DSCP employees also are arranging for an increase in production of such items as lumber and housing, which are expected to be some of the most-requested commodities during the initial surge.
At Defense Supply Center Richmond, Va., work is under way to boost support to the fleet of helicopters that has become an important means for getting supplies to troops in Afghanistan, where unimproved roads and steep terrain make it difficult to move equipment.
In land combat support, Defense Supply Center Columbus, Ohio, has partnered with Oshkosh Defense, makers of the new all-terrain version of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or M-ATVs, to provide repair parts for the vehicles, which are being used to protect troops from roadside bombs. Six DSCC employees have deployed to Afghanistan to focus solely on support of conventional MRAPs and the new M-ATVs.
Employees at Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, Pa., are assembling new combat lifesaver kits that contain such medical supplies as bandages, scissors, splints and gloves that are used to treat severely wounded soldiers.
A key element of the Afghanistan support strategy, Thompson said, is the development of the Northern Distribution Network. This initiative provides additional routes to move material to troops on the ground through the South Caucasus and Central and South-Asian states.
Thompson met with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, Nov. 23 to discuss how DLA is supporting the Northern Distribution Network and the general's local security cooperation strategy through local procurement efforts in the region. DLA has been leading this effort for Centcom by bringing together other contracting activities within U.S. Transportation Command, the State Department, the General Services Administration and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Thompson also visited DLA employees in southern Afghanistan in November to get a first-hand look at how the agency is supporting warfighters. Though the intent of his visit was to find areas that needed improvement, the admiral said, leaders on the ground had nothing but good things to say about DLA's support.
"Looking across our full line of support, I'm confident that we're on track to supply warfighters with everything they need, whether it's fuel, spare parts for weapons systems or troop-support items," he said.
Thompson also spoke at the conference about recent DLA initiatives to ensure stewardship and integrity in DLA's acquisition process. He told attendees of DLA's need to always be mindful of the role it plays on behalf of American taxpayers.
He finished his keynote speech by speaking about the important part DLA's work force plays in the agency's success and, ultimately, the success of its warfighting customers, and the programs DLA has to ensure that it has the right work force now and in the future.
(Beth Reece works in the Defense Logistics Agency's strategic communications office.)