A wildfire burning out of control in New Mexico while a major hurricane strikes the East Coast set the stage for a notional disaster preparedness exercise played out by the Defense Logistics Agency at the end of July.
DLA Disaster Support Exercise 14 tested the agency’s support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the North Carolina National Guard, and the U.S. Forest Service during natural disasters.
In the notional scenario, the Miller Wildfire began in New Mexico and consumed 250,000 acres. A few days later, Hurricane Christina blew ashore in North Carolina as a Category 4 storm and caused destruction across several states before ending in Canada.
“We need to predict what requirements may be coming our way during similar emergencies,” said Guy Beougher, executive director for support with DLA Logistics Operations. “If things got worse or there is a system failure during a real world incident, we need to know how we would get in front of the requirements and predict what is needed to perform our mission.”
DLA recently took over the management of 288 types of inventory from the General Services Administration that directly support the Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Protection Program. These items include medical supplies, firefighting tools and protective gear.
Army Col. Eric Sloughfy, director of the DLA Joint Logistics Operations Center, said testing the agency’s ability to support the new items was one goal of the exercise.
“These exercises help DLA validate plans, policies and procedures between DLA and our federal partners like FEMA, the Forest Service and contractors,” he said. “The training also identifies any gaps in coordination and communications and helps to clarify roles and responsibilities.”
For a real world crisis similar to this exercise, DLA would provide vast quantities of items to USACE, the Forest Service and FEMA. During the exercise, DLA simulated supplying and contracting these commodities:
-- 3.7 million shelf-stable meals.
-- 314,000 cots.
-- 47,000 blankets.
-- 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
-- 1,500 fire retardant gloves to the Forest Service.
-- 20 portable high-pressure pumps.
Sand bags, tents, plastic sheeting, maps and generators were also provided.
During Day Two of the exercise, senior officials from FEMA, USACE and the Forest Service visited DLA Headquarters to attend both the exercise and real-world briefings.
Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of contingency operations for USACE, said she was impressed with DLA’s resources.
“I was amazed at DLA’s capabilities during [Hurricane] Sandy,” she said. “We want to leverage DLA’s resources in the future to meet the corps’ requirements.”
Emilee Blount, the Forest Service’s director of engineering, technology and geospatial services, said exercises like this raise awareness of DLA’s vast catalog of commodities and capabilities within other federal agencies.
One item required in bulk by the Forest Service is AA batteries. Beougher said the organization’s communication equipment is complex and runs on batteries.
“In a fire this size, the service will burn up about 350,000 AA batteries a day,” he said. “So you can see that type of demand signal you have to get ahead of. You don't want to keep that many batteries on hand, so that's why it's important to have the right contract and procurement capability behind those types of requirements.”
Partnerships forged between agencies prior to real-world crisis events are critical, said Jeff Burbach, USACE’s director of logistics.
“Relationship building at all levels in partnerships like USACE and DLA is imperative to success,” he said. “Without those established contacts, making that late-night emergency phone call is tough.”
Beougher said DLA relies on its partners to tell the agency what it can do for them.
“What we don't want to do is get in their way or get in front of them in any way,” he said. “If FEMA or the Corps of Engineers or the fire service wants us on the front fire line or downtown Fort Bragg, we'll do that.”
DLA actively participates in about 24 exercises each year designed to prepare national-level organizations at the strategic and operational levels to integrate interagency, nongovernmental and multinational partners in complex environments.
DLA plans and executes internal exercises like June’s DLA Distribution Readiness Exercise. The agency will also participate in U.S. Pacific Command’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise in South Korea this month. DLA representatives from DLA Pacific, the headquarters staff and the field activities have formed an exercise support team in South Korea.
The next major exercise is DLA Wargame 14, a fuel-focused, USPACOM-centric war game scheduled to be held at the Center for Naval Analysis in Arlington, Virginia, Sept. 29-Oct. 3.