American forces left Iraq more than two years ago, but the Defense Logistics Agency's job there is just now ending.
On May 15, the agency will stop providing supplies to the State Department officials who assumed responsibility for U.S. operations in Iraq on Dec. 31, 2011. DLA agreed to supply food, fuel and disposal services until the State Department established its own contract, which was awarded in July 2013.
"The new vendor has come on board in phases, and DLA has been gradually transferring logistics support to the new vendor since early this year," said Navy Capt. Jim Liberko, who served six months as commander of the DLA support team in Kuwait, which supports everything in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility except Afghanistan.
DLA stopped providing fuel at the end of February, followed by property disposal and demilitarization at the end of March.
"The turnover for fuel was pretty seamless, but before ending our disposal services mission we spent 30 days working side by side with the new contractor, training them on the equipment and processes," Liberko said.
In food support, the agency stopped providing fresh produce and nonfood items such as paper plates in March. Dry food items ended in April, and all logistics support to the State Department is scheduled to end in May when DLA stops providing frozen food.
DLA's support was originally scheduled to end in March 2013, but was extended so the agency could provide State Department officials with operational logistics planning as well as acquisition and financial management assistance.
A DLA representative worked at the embassy compound from the beginning.
Anita Luich served there from June through December 2012, and again from June 2013 until she was the last DLA employee to leave Iraq in early April. Having a liaison on the ground was crucial, she said last summer.
"Being the sole DLA liaison officer in Iraq, I'm constantly communicating with primary-level field activity representatives back in the states to ensure seamless support," she said.
State Department officials stationed abroad typically live and work in stable environments and rely on the local economy for supplies. Those in Iraq, however, live inside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.
"They needed DLA because nowhere else did they have the need for disposal of equipment or the ability to run their own dining facilities. Those are skill sets we were able to provide that the State Department just didn't have organically. And because we were running the military bases, we already had the logistics pipeline established for food and fuel, so they were able to just leverage what was already in existence so they could take their time in developing their own processes," Liberko said.
The conclusion of DLA's support to the State Department in Iraq doesn't mean the partnership will end, he added.
"We've got such a great working relationship that I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future we're asked to help engage," Liberko said, adding that a DLA support team member in Kuwait can be in Baghdad in an hour and a half at a moment's notice if needed.
"This has been a tremendous success," he said. "And the fact that DLA has been providing logistics support in Iraq for this long shows the value the agency can offer."
DLA Disposition Services’ Tony Nino destroys equipment so it can’t be used against U.S. forces. DLA has supported the State Department in Iraq since American forces left the country at the end of 2011. Photo Courtesy U.S. State Department