Subsistence Employee Ensures Fresh Produce for USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) Deployment

BY ALEXANDRIA BRIMAGE-GRAY, Public Affairs, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support

Imagine having the sole responsibility to ensure the on-time delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables to a Navy hospital vessel, with no central logistics point in sight.

This is the task Timothy Schmidt, a tailored vendor logistics specialist in the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Troop Support’s subsistence supply chain, has during USNS Comfort’s five-month deployment from June through November to provide medical assistance to local populations of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) region.

The bulk of the challenge, Schmidt said, is due to the ship’s scheduled stops. While ships normally receive supplies from one of several centralized locations serviced by a prime vendor (PV) contract, this mission will require larger-than-normal supply loads at multiple ports, none of which are serviced by, or qualify for, traditional PV contracting.  “The [Comfort] is not necessarily home ported, so we have multiple offices that we have to coordinate with,” Schmidt said.  According to Jacob Slotnick, a Subsistence Integrated Supplier Team chief, order values from the customer would have to support the overhead costs of a vendor setting up warehousing and delivery logistics over the period of the contract to make PV work.  Schmidt states that while the typical value for an order in the SOUTHCOM area of operation is between $1,000 and $2,000, an order for Comfort would be valued at $10,000 to $15,000 based on the length of the stay in the port. To be marketable as a PV contract, orders would have to persist over a longer period time.

“We had to come up with a strategy to support customers in the SOUTHCOM areas that have low, volatile demands, but have requirements that need to be filled,” Slotnick added.

In order to accomplish this, Schmidt spent the month of May communicating with Comfort’s supply officers and reviewing historical data to predict order requirements.  He used this information to create a communications hub for Comfort, tying in a network of vendors already in place in various countries throughout SOUTHCOM.  “I setup the [SOUTHCOM] support platform to provide the customers a centralized person to serve as the key point of contact to communicate with vendors in the entire region instead of having them coordinate with different account managers in each region.”

Through this platform, Schmidt created a way for Comfort to use a single point of contact to ensure the ship’s orders could be filled through indefinite delivery contracts (IDC) at a multiple ports.

An IDC provides Comfort the ability to meet its needs throughout the regional deployment, regardless of an order’s size or value, while benefiting DLA Troop Support and the Navy.

Although contracts have a guaranteed minimum that Troop Support is responsible for paying the vendor if the demand does not materialize, Slotnick said, IDCs do not.  “Through the use of IDC and simplified acquisition procedures, these contracts can be awarded in a short amount of time, and minimize the financial risk to the government,” Slotnick said. “It is also a great way for us to support these low-demand areas.” Comfort is scheduled to provide medical assistance in support of regional partners, conducting mission stops in Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago.