The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is the largest agency within the Department of Defense (DoD). Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, it is represented in 28 countries and 48 states within the U.S. It provides support as well as technical and logistic services to the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and several federal agencies. It has supported every U.S. military operation, from the Vietnam War to Operation Enduring Freedom.
The DLA supplies almost every consumable item that America’s military services need to operate, from food and clothing to equipment and jet fuel. It manages five million items in nine supply chains, and oversees 26 worldwide distribution depots. In FY 2011, it provided $46.1 billion in sales and revenue, including $2.4 billion in foreign military sales in support of 110 U.S. allies.
On August 31, 1961, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara convened a committee to study the consolidation of supply management for the military services. On October 1, 1961, a separate common supply and service agency, the Defense Supply Agency (DSA), was established. Its headquarters were set up at Cameron Station in Alexandria, Virginia. When DSA first began operations on January 1, 1962, it controlled six commodity-type and two service-type single managers, from medical supplies, textiles and traffic management service to supplies for automotive, construction, and petroleum. Having these functions consolidated under the DSA was estimated to save more than $30 million each year and reduce the workforce by 3,300 people.
By July 1, 1962, the DSA consisted of 11 field organizations, employed 16,500 people, and managed 45 facilities. By June 1963 the agency was managing over one million different items in nine supply centers and had an estimated inventory of $2.5 billion.
Between 1965 and 1973, DSA’s responsibilities grew to include defense property stored overseas, disposal operations and worldwide procurement, management, and distribution of coal and bulk petroleum products. An example of the agency’s overseas task occurred during the Middle East crisis in October 1973, when it had to deliver a wide range of military equipment on an urgent basis.
The DSA’s supply system played a huge role in supporting U.S. forces in Vietnam. Between 1965 and 1969 more than 22 million short tons of dry cargo and more than 14 million short tons of bulk petroleum were transported to Vietnam. The agency also became responsible for administering defense contracts that it awarded, as well as those awarded by the military services. Officials established the Defense Contract Administration Services (DCAS) within the DSA, significantly altering its structure.
By 1975 the DSA had evolved from an agency solely dedicated to supply operations and administering single manager supply agencies to one almost evenly divided between supply support and logistics services. The 11 DCAS regions were reduced to nine, and the DSA took on a dominant role in logistics functions throughout the Defense Department.
On January 1, 1977, officials changed the name of the Defense Supply Agency to the Defense Logistics Agency. In 1988 the agency adopted a new mission, by presidential order, when it assumed management of the nation’s stockpile of strategic materials from the General Services Administration. In 1989, the military services were directed to transfer one million consumable items to DLA for management.
During the 1990s the agency’s role in supporting military contingencies and humanitarian assistance operations grew dramatically. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, DLA provided the military services with over $3 billion worth of food, clothing, textiles, medical supplies, and weapons system repair parts in response to over two million requisitions. As a part of Operation Provide Comfort, the DLA continued support efforts in the Middle East long after most U.S. forces had redeployed, providing over $68 million of food, clothing, and medical supplies designed to aid refugees, mostly Kurds, in Iraq.
The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process significantly affected the way the agency organized for its contract administration and supply distribution missions. As a result of BRAC 1993 (pdf), officials merged, realigned, or closed several DLA primary-level field activities.
In October 1994, the DLA deployed an initial element to support operations in Haiti. In December 1995, the first element of a DLA Contingency Support Team deployed to Hungary to coordinate the delivery of needed agency supplies and services to U.S. military units deployed in Bosnia and other NATO forces. In February 2000 the Defense Logistics Agency announced a reorganization that was part of a larger plan to prepare itself to provide essential military logistics support for troops involved in current conflicts. Its new DLA 21 initiative raised the level of military logistics by aligning capabilities around the customers’ environments.
That same year, military supply depot warehouses that had been in use since 1918—part of DLA Land and Marine’s Defense Supply Center Columbus—were demolished. The 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission kicked off an ongoing expansion process for the Center, which has positively impacted procurement activity. The Center is currently host to 26 tenant organizations on the 530-acre site, while DLA Land and Maritime supplies the armed forces with $3 billion worth of materiel annually.
In 2001, the DLA headquarters was renamed the McNamara Headquarters Complex in honor of its first director, U.S. Army Lt. (Ret.) Gen. Andrew T. McNamara. In 2007, the DLA expanded its operations to 48 states (all but Vermont and Iowa) and 28 countries, and in 2009 it upgraded its logistics systems.
In 2010, the “We Are DLA” plan was instituted to create a single-agency approach, regardless of location or mission. It resulted in the renaming of its field activities, incorporating the “DLA” acronym into their titles.
For many years, DLA has provided emergency supplies and personnel in the wake of natural disasters around the globe, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, the 2007 California wildfires, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japan quake and tsunami, and hurricanes Rita, Katrina, Gustav, Ike, Andrew, Marilyn (pdf) and, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy.
The Defense Supply Agency (DSA) supports the warfighter in time of war and peace by procuring, managing, storing and distributing 5.2 million items for U.S. military customers, other federal agencies and allied forces. These tasks are accomplished by utilizing support from DLA’s supply centers, distribution center and service centers.
DLA Primary Level Field Activities
DLA Strategic Materials
Defense Business Services
DLA Regional Commands
Examples of DLA’s support in emergencies and warfare
In October 2007, when wild fires swept through Southern California, the DLA aided the thousands of evacuees and the marines and sailors supporting the wildfire relief efforts. The DLA supplied the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with meals-ready-to-eat and supplies that were needed to help evacuees and fight the fires.
During the holiday season of 2007, the DLA provided U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Dubai, and Djibouti with holiday meals. Thanksgiving meal items totaled to more than $7 million and Christmas meal items came to $5 million. The DLA supplies $12.4 billion worth of food, clothing, textiles, medicines, medical supplies, construction and equipment supplies and services for America’s warfighters, eligible family members, and other federal consumers worldwide. The agency provided a total of $46.1 billion in sales and revenue in FY 2011.
From the Web Site of the Defense Logistics Agency
Acronyms List (pdf)
Strategic Plan (pdf)
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) spent more than $602 million on 2,800 contractor transactions between FY 2002 and FY 2012, according to USASpending.gov. The top five services or products purchased by DLA were logistics support ($376,015,724), tents and tarpaulins ($33,991,530), composite food packages ($25,383,015), ADP and telecommunications services ($16,315,121), and aircraft maintenance/repair ($15,457,558).
The top four contractors that were recipients of DLA spending during that period were:
1. KBR Inc. $185,385,654
2. Warehouses Service Agency SARL $104,105,039
3. Government of the United States $91,672,135
4. Honeywell International Inc. $54,178,229
Food-Service Contract Is a Major Example of Mismanagement
The Department of Defense’s inspector general (IG) blasted the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in 2011 for what it called a “bad” contract with Supreme Foodservice AG.
Beginning in 2005, the DLA paid billions of dollars to Supreme to deliver food and other supplies to troops in Afghanistan. The IG found that over time, the DLA had overpaid by more than $750 million for the transport of the supplies, and demanded the agency recover this money from the contractor.
Inspector General Gordon Heddell said at a congressional hearing that the original Supreme contract was “an example of just how bad it can get.” Heddell added that the contract “wasn’t well-designed” or “well-thought out.”
As a result of the IG audit, it was pointed that the former head of the DLA, Robert Dail, a retired Army general who ran the agency from August 2006 to November 2008, was now working for Supreme as head of its Washington-based operations.
In 2012, DLA decided to hire another company to provide food to the war effort in Afghanistan. But it also agreed to pay Supreme another $1.5 billion so it could continue handling these duties while the new contractor, Anham FZCO, got its operations set up to eventually take over.
U.S. Seeks $756.9 Million Refund From Supreme Foodservice (by Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg)
Agency Extends Afghan Food-Supply Contract for Firm That Hired Former Director (by Walter Pincus, Washington Post)
Supreme Group Probed Over No-Bid Contracts to Feed Troops in Afghanistan (by Aram Roston, Daily Beast)
U.S. Awards Afghan Contract to Dubai Firm (by Nathan Hodge, Wall Street Journal)
BP Contract Controversy
Despite causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history and eventually pleading guilty to 14 felony counts and agreeing to a $4.5 billion settlement, British Petroleum (BP) continued to do a lucrative business with the military through contracts with the DLA.
If anything, BP’s business only grew after its offshore oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in March 2010 and gushed black crude for months on end.
Sales of BP fuel to the Department of Defense increased 33%, from $1.02 billion in 2010 to $1.35 billion in 2011.
One example cited by critics of BP involved a DLA contract to Air BP, a division of BP Products North America, worth $42 million. The deal, providing fuel to Dover Air Force Base, was categorized as “unusual and compelling” and part of a larger contract that was already in place.
BP Still Being Awarded Lucrative Government Contracts (by Jason Leopold, Truthout.org)
BP Still a Top Supplier to U.S. Military (by Ben Rooney, CNN Money)
BP Oil Spill Settlement Announced, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine Charged with Manslaughter (by Tom Zeller Jr. and John Rudolf, Huffington Post)
DLA Accused of Awarding Non-Bid Contract to KGL Holding
The DLA announced in early 2010 that it planned to award a sole source contract to a Kuwaiti company for logistics services throughout the U.S. military’s Central Command area, which included Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and other countries.
But congressional pressure forced the DLA to pull back its offer and open the bidding up to other companies. Lawmakers became upset when they learned KGL Holding was accused of human trafficking (its own truck drivers complained of being forced to make deliveries to U.S. troops in Iraq), and that it had behaved badly toward the family of Army officer Lt. Col. Dominic “Rocky” Baragona Jr. who was killed in 2003 in an accident caused by a KGL truck in Iraq.
The family of Baragona sued unsuccessfully in U.S. courts to make KGL responsible for the death. Although U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. dismissed the case over jurisdictional issues, he also criticized the company for acting callously toward the family by besmirching Baragona’s honor and insinuating that he’d caused the accident, and using legal delays so the case slogged through the courts for nearly four years.
DoD Bows To Critics, Denies Kuwaiti Firm Sole Source Contract (by Nick Schwellenbach, The Center for Public Integrity)
DLA Commander Relieved of His Job
The DLA lost its top commander in 2010 after an investigation found he had behaved inappropriately toward subordinates and others.
Air Force Brigadier General Scott Chambers was removed as head of the DLA and sent back to the Air Force after his superiors were presented with the findings of an inspector general (IG) report.
It was learned that Chambers had made subordinates uncomfortable, inappropriately touched female subordinates, and made off-colored remarks in private and public meetings.
The IG uncovered 12 incidents of concern. In one instance, Chambers made sexual and gender-related remarks during two town hall meetings where he made offensive sexual and gender references in comparing the challenges of leading the DLA to raising a family.
Defense Logistics Agency Relieves Key Commander (The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech)
Yet Another Scandal at the DLA (Federal Daily)
‘Personal Misconduct’ Tied To 1-Star’s Firing (by Bruce Rolfsen, Air Force Times)
DLA Dumped Hazardous Waste In Iraq, Rather than Shipping It to the U.S.
During the course of the Iraq war, the United States was supposed to dispose of any hazardous waste it produced by sending it back home. But this didn’t always happen, and the DLA got into trouble for it.
In 2010 the British newspaper The Times reported that hazardous waste from American bases was being dumped in five Iraqi provinces. These actions ran contrary to U.S. military policy requiring the waste to be packed up and shipped to the states. The DLA could have taken steps to ensure the waste was recycled at facilities in northern and western Iraq, but that didn’t happen either.
Maj. Gen. Kendall P. Cox Sr. told the media, “As you know we have been here for over seven years. In that period we have accumulated several million pounds of hazardous waste… I think perhaps the lesson is that we create hazardous waste treatment centers earlier if there is a potential for us to have a long-term presence.”
DLA Disposition Services (Wikipedia)
State Department: a New Role in Iraq (by Beth Reece, Defense Logistics Agency)
DLA Disposition Services Ensures Proper Disposal of Hazardous Waste (by Jonathan Stack, Defense Logistics Agency)
Environmental Considerations in Defense Logistics Agency Actions (Defense Logistics Agency)
DLA Continues Dealing with Contractor that Overcharged
The DLA decided not to bring the hammer down on a defense contractor accused of overcharging the agency during the Iraq war. The company, Agility, supplied food and other products to U.S. troops in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2010, per a series of contracts awarded by the DLA.
In November 2009, a grand jury indicted Agility for overcharging the agency. The case has continued to drag on, with company lawyers insisting that all of its prices were approved by the agency.
Although both sides have discussed reaching an out of court settlement, Agility has continued to finish up its work under previous contracts and extensions. It has, however, been prevented from pursuing new deals with federal offices because the DLA suspended the company from bidding on future contracts until a settlement is reached or until there’s a decision in a trial.
Tag Archive (Ms Sparky)
Agility Awarded $1.4 billion Option Year on Contract to Feed U.S. Forces in Iraq — Press Release (by Matthew Potter, Defense Procurement News)
More Questionable Contracts
The DLA was scrutinized in 2010 for awarding $1.4 billion in no-bid contracts to two foreign companies that supplied fuel to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which supports U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.
A subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the deals with Mina Corporation and Red Star Enterprises, whose ownership and management were described by some as “extremely mysterious.”
Critics of the contracts said the companies were connected to the families of former Kyrgyzstan leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his son Maksim Bakiyev who were accused of corruption.
In its official report, the committee wrote: “Despite awarding Mina and Red Star several billion dollars in contracts over the past eight years, the existence of two ongoing investigations into serious allegations of corruption, significant political and diplomatic fallout in Kyrgyzstan, the companies’ unusual behavior and hyper-secrecy, and the U.S. military’s strategic reliance on the fuel that they provide, the U.S. government knew little about who the companies were or how they operated.”
Pentagon Confirms It Gave $1.4 Billion in No-Bid Fuel Contracts to Mysterious Companies (by Mark Hosenball, Newsweek)
Kyrgyzstan: Is Manas Fuel Supplier Pulling Out? (Eurasianet.org)
Gazprom to Supply Fuel to the Manas Transit Center (by Deirdre Tynan, Oil Price)
Mystery at Manas (Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)
Pentagon Agency Quizzed In Kyrgyz Kickback Probe (by Jeff Stein, Washington Post)
High Suicide and Drug-Use Rates in Military, According to DLA Records
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) was caught up in a storm of media attention after a military publication reported steep increases in prescription drug use and suicides among defense personnel.
Using data gathered by the DLA, reporters from the Navy Times found that one-sixth of service members were taking at least one psychiatric drug, and many were actually consuming “drug cocktail” combinations that could interfere with their abilities in the field and even make them more prone to suicide.
In fact, the report said, suicides in the U.S. Army increased from nine per 100,000 soldiers in 2001 to 23 per 100,000 in 2009. Similarly, the Marine Corps’ suicide rate jumped from 16.7 to 24 per 100,000.
During this same time period, the DLA spent $1.1 billion on psychiatric and pain medications. Antipsychotic drug orders soared by more than 200%, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills by 170%, antiepileptic drugs (also known as anticonvulsants) by 70%, and antidepressants by 40%.
Drugged Warriors: Sharp Rise in U.S. Military Psychiatric Drug Use and Suicide (by Bruce Levine, AlterNet)
Why Are So Many Soldiers On Antipsychotics? (by Ed Silverman, Pharmalot)
Medicating the Military (by Andrew Tilghman and Brendan McGarry, Navy Times)
Omni Newsletter #1 Military Suicides (by Dick Bennett, A Culture of Peace)
The Department of Defense’s inspector general (IG) blasted the DLA in 2011, giving the agency a failing grade, for not properly performing audits.
The DLA’s accountability office was found to have investigators who lacked sufficient auditing experience and who didn’t follow generally accepted government auditing standards.
Only four years old, the accountability office was formed to focus investigators and auditors on improving “efficiency, accountability and warfighter support.”
In 2008, the DLA was faulted for overspending on contracts by $93 million in 2006, according to another IG investigation. Again, the agency was cited for not following proper procedures designed to keep track of expenditures and report overpayments while its 27,000 employees oversee the movement of some 5 million goods.
Report Criticizes Defense Agency’s Auditing (by Robert O’Harrow Jr., Washington Post)
Improper Payments (Washington Post)
Using Old Equipment to Create Artificial Reefs
The DLA’s Reef Exercise program began in 1994 and created great controversy surrounding the ethics of the program. The Reef Exercise program was based on the DLA constructing “artificial reefs” out of the U.S. surplus of military equipment. These vehicles now extend along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts from New York through Louisiana. The DLA is responsible for the disposal of equipment, such as battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, ships, etc. One benefit to this disposal, according to the DLA, is that “reefs provide additional or more reliable fishing areas and diving sites for humans.” There had been controversy as to whether these artificial reefs actually created benefits for fish and other sea life. The agency now claims that there is no longer any problem with equipment reefs.
Spare-Parts Acquisition Reform
To better serve the branches of the military as well as defense contractors, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) changed its support services to make them more customer oriented.
Using what it called the Parts Management Program (PMP), the DLA promoted the use of standard parts in the design of weapon systems, subsystems, and equipment. It also sought to factor in engineering, standardization, acquisition, and other logistic support costs.
The program was supposed to provide a systematic review of proposed or currently used parts lists by the Defense Department. It also was intended to give contractors the information they needed to adapt to an ever-changing market.
The DLA said the PMP would lower the cost of ownership of weapons systems, including acquisition expenses, lead time, risks, and parts proliferation.
Another effort to save money on spare parts involved a 12-year contract between the DLA and Honeywell International, Inc. for a “one-pass pricing” system. But after eight years, the DLA began to doubt whether the company was really saving the agency money because the system didn’t include a re-examination of prices, which could have saved the DLA millions over the period of the contract.
Information Paper - Parts Management Program (Defense Logistics Agency)
Cheaper Spare Parts (Strong America Now)
Proposal to Merge DLA and U.S. Transportation Command
Some officials within the Department of Defense have wanted to resolve inefficiencies affecting the military’s supply chain by merging the DLA with the U.S. Transportation Command (TransCom).
But DLA leadership has balked at the idea, saying a merger wouldn’t be the answer. Combining the two operations could result in an unmanageable behemoth with nearly 175,000 workers that would create more problems than it would resolve, according to the DLA.
TransCom has been in favor of the idea, perhaps because a merger would more likely result in TransCom absorbing the DLA. TransCom is higher up in the pecking order within the Pentagon, reporting directly to the secretary of defense. In contrast, the DLA reports to a lower command level, the deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness.
Debate Over Logistics Reform Intensifies (by Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense Magazine)
Should the Department of Defense Establish a Unified U.S. Logistics Command? (by Lt. Col. Frank Wenzel, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College)
Alan Thompson November 2008 - 2011
Vice Admiral Alan S. Thompson, a 30-year careerist who has quietly held numerous commands involving supplies for the U.S. Navy, assumed the role of director of the Defense Logistics Agency on November 19, 2008. During his term as director he was in charge of procuring and distributing to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps a wide variety of products and services, including food, clothing, medical supplies, construction material, spare parts, and fuel.
Thompson, who traces his family’s military roots to the Civil War era in Pennsylvania, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from UCLA, where he received his commission through the Naval ROTC program in 1976. He later earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Florida and completed the Columbia University Graduate School of Business Senior Executive Program.
Thompson’s ship assignments have included assistant supply officer aboard the destroyer USS David R. Ray (DD 971), and supply officer for the missile destroyer USS Chandler (DDG 996) and the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
Ashore, he has served at the Naval Supply Systems Command, formerly located at the Naval Aviation Supply Office in Philadelphia; as commander of the Naval Air Force for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the Naval Air Station in Miramar, California; and in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).
In July 1998, Thompson was appointed the commanding officer of the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Norfolk, the Navy’s largest supply center. Later, he was made chief of the Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group and a CNO Fellow at the Naval War College.
In February 2001, he was promoted from captain to rear admiral. That same year he was assigned as commander of the Defense Supply Center in Columbus, Ohio, for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), serving until 2003. He was then Director of the Supply, Ordnance, and Logistics Operations Division (N41) in the Office of the CNO, and later commander of the Naval Supply Systems Command and Chief of Supply Corps, in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, from March 2007 until taking over the DLA.
Thompson was promoted to vice admiral and President George W. Bush appointed him director of the DLA in November 2008. In charge of 23,000 civilian and military personnel, Thompson was responsible for providing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and other federal agencies with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services. These services included logistics information, materiel management, procurement, warehousing and distribution of spare parts, food, clothing, medical supplies and fuel, reutilization of surplus military materiel, and document automation and production.
Robert T. Dail August 2006 - November 2008
Official Biography (DLA)
Vice Admiral Mark D. Harnitchek became director of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in November 2011. Located in the Defense Department, DLA provides support as well as technical and logistic services to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and is in charge of almost every consumable item America’s military services need to operate, including food, clothing, equipment and even jet fuel. In recent years it has been the subject of investigations regarding waste and corruption involved with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former DLA directors, after retiring, have gone to work for the companies did business with while in the armed services. In FY 2011, DLA made a record $46 billion in purchases.
Vice Admiral Alan S. Thompson, a 30-year careerist who has quietly held numerous commands involving supplies for the US Navy, assumed the role of director of the Defense Logistics Agency on November 19, 2008. He is in charge of procuring and distributing to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps a wide variety of products and services, including food, clothing, medical supplies, construction material, spare parts and fuel.