Story by Julius Evans on 04/16/2019The United States Navy makes vast investments into its afloat forces and into the personnel who operate its vessels. The Navy ensures that while a new ship is being constructed or is being prepared to make a deployment that it has all the necessary items aboard to achieve self-sustainment while at sea. No ship goes to sea without supplies and equipment to guarantee fully successful operations.
Naval Medical Logistics Command (NMLC), a vital and critical mission enabler for medical readiness, is headed by Cmdr. Steve Aboona and stationed at Fort Detrick, Md. It ensures that all afloat forces and Military Treatment Facilities around the globe have on-hand the world-class medical equipment and materiel necessary to treat the nation's warfighters and their family members.
Taking into account that the nation's warfighters serve on a multitude of platforms, Valerie Taylor, procurement manager for outfitting new Nuclear-powered Aircraft Carriers, Landing Helicopter Assault ships and Amphibious Transport Dock ships, described her responsibilities.
"I requisition all the medical equipment that will be installed on the ships, commonly known as Schedule A' equipment. I'm also responsible for requisitioning the required Authorized Medical Allowance List (AMAL) and Authorized Dental Allowance List (ADAL) materiel. This materiel consists of the portable equipment and supplies that will ultimately be delivered no later than two months prior to the crew moving aboard the ship," Taylor said.
Knowing the move aboard timelines is one critical aspect of success for NMLC's Operational Forces Support Directorate as they work closely with Program Executive Office Shipbuilding program managers, to remain informed of those dates through bi-weekly ship outfitting status meetings.
NMLC's Operational Forces Support Directorate, led by Richard Schlegel, a former Supply Corps Officer, manages all AMAL and ADAL data content and coordinates with U.S. Fleet Forces Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Type Commander (TYCOM) Health Services Support staffs to make sure the lists are up to date clinically, and accurately reflect the medical capabilities a ship is required to provide. The TYCOM is responsible for Manning, Training and Equipping (MT&E) functions for specific warfare operational communities within the Navy.
The fleet conducts assemblage modernization reviews every 18-24 months. They are chaired by the respective TYCOM Surgeon to ensure medical materiel contained on the AMAL and ADAL is clinically required and logistically supportable. The reviews are collaborative efforts between NMLC and TYCOMs. Held at NMLC headquarters, medical subject matter experts from throughout naval medicine support the combat developers (TYCOM), from the surface, subsurface, special mission and auxiliary sealift, aviation and expeditionary communities (Commander, Naval Surface Forces; Commander, Naval Submarine Forces; Commander, Military Sealift Command; Commander, Naval Air Forces; and Naval Expeditionary Combat Command).
Senior officers and senior enlisted personnel assigned to various commands meet at Fort Detrick for up to five days to review every line item on specific AMALs and ADALs. Once the correct items have been identified, the ordering process receives the same level of meticulous attention.
"Our biggest source of procurement for outfitting new construction ships comes from an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, administered by NMLC's Acquisition and Analytics Directorate, that allows us to use a single contractor to order roughly 85-90 percent of a ship's outfitting needs, depending on the medical capability of the ship," explained Lt. Cmdr. Roger M. Bruce, NMLC Operational Forces Support Directorate Ship Outfitting Supervisor.
"We use Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Troop Support and General Services Administration for equipment items," he said.
Bruce also said that in the last few years, NMLC has discovered that using the IDIQs to procure the medical and dental materiel requirements, as opposed to single line item requisitioning through DLA Troop Support, provides a better end product for the customers and significantly higher fill rates.
"It allows us better tracking, better delivery, better shelf-life, better responsiveness, and it provides a better end product for our customers, which is ultimately what matters most," Bruce said.
Another critical challenge in meeting customers' expectations is executing multiple ships' outfitting missions simultaneously. Managing competing priorities with dates that sometimes change, enhances task management skills in ensuring that specific items are on board before the ship goes to sea. They can't sail without them.
"The program offices disseminate a Master Planning Schedule for each of their ship classes that we use to determine when to start the process for outfitting a ship," Bruce said. "We time our procurement deliveries to these schedules to ensure 95 percent of their materiel is at the ship by the date the crew moves aboard. Our goal is to have at least 98 percent of the items aboard the ship by the day the ship sets sail."
Shifting schedules, a small number of staff, transfer of key personnel and training new personnel are always factors that contribute to the challenge of ensuring ships have the right medical material aboard prior to setting sail. However, the dedicated professionals of NMLC have seen it all before and continually meet customers' expectations successfully.
Small schedule changes are not problematic. Larger shifts in schedules typically require a considerable amount of "re-work" and the team must adjust deliveries by modifying contracts, re-ordering shelf-life items that are aging, or incorporating additional items due to AMAL and ADAL changes that might not have been originally required.
"In the three years I have been at the command, there hasn't been one ship that we have outfitted that hasn't had an alteration, a modification or a schedule change. We adjust accordingly to ensure they have the right equipment aboard, at the right time, before setting sail," Bruce said.
As ships continue to go to sea, it is encouraging to know that NMLC continues to design, execute and administer individualized state-of-the-art solutions to meet customers' medical materiel and readiness needs. Further, NMLC is identifying technological advantages that will continue to help warfighters receive world-class medical healthcare.