News | Dec. 9, 2020

DCMA employees provide direct pandemic support to battle unseen threats

By Elizabeth Szoke DCMA Public Affairs

Defense Contract Management Agency team members around the world remained resilient to continue providing insight for the nation’s warfighters, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic. In addition to their normal duties, a small group of agency personnel were also asked to give a little more time and provide direct support to COVID-19 relief efforts.

The agency formed a task force in late March, shortly after Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Ellen Lord, established the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, previously known as the COVID-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force. The JRAC’s purpose is to serve as the single-entry point to DoD acquisition enterprise and address interagency requests for acquisition assistance from organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Health and Human Services.

“When we first met as the DCMA support element, we had no real idea of what our tasks would be,” said Brad Renner, JRAC data team liaison officer. “We did know that the lives of many Americans were at risk and that what we were about to undertake would play a role in a massive effort to mobilize our nation's healthcare resources against a foe that none of us had ever heard of, or completely understood.” Renner is regularly a program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps with the Portfolio Management and Business Integration Directorate.

According to the JRAC, their mission is to align with the broader DoD COVID-19 task force. Due to the nature of their mission, the JRAC needed experienced acquisition professionals to provide advice and exercise rapid contracting tasks to expedite the process of awarding contracts on behalf of HHS.

“We suddenly found ourselves facing an unknown enemy as a warfighter in a healthcare battle,” said Renner. “We first stood up to support the development for a common picture of supply and demand of products like ventilators, N-95 masks and screening and diagnostics items; things that most of us knew very little about. The team quickly branched out beyond the common picture and into the product lines of effort that the JRAC was supporting.”

The team’s goal was to leverage as many DCMA personnel assets as possible to support DoD and the other federal agencies involved in the battle against COVID-19.

“These volunteers have specifically helped integrate efforts across the JRAC by liaising across a large number of multi-disciplined working groups to produce a near real time supply chain common operating picture,” said Sigmund Evans, a DCMA emergency management specialist and one of the JRAC data team liaison officer. “In doing so, we have gathered and analyzed a vast amount of medical equipment inventory, usage and demand signal data enabling the JRAC director to make Defense Production Act recommendations to U.S. Cabinet-level personnel.”

The volunteers in the task force have made adjustments to support mission requirements. These include longer hours and weekend work, which was more prominent during the first several weeks. Volunteers indicated they had to adjust their daily mindset to the ever-changing mission requirements, which included a significant change in work-life balance.

“As things have progressed, we have not had to work as many weekends. Ideally, each member would no longer need to work outside of their normal 40 hours a week,” said Evans. “Family and friends have been very supportive and understand the importance this task force is doing to battle the virus. Furthermore, each member’s supervisors and co-workers have been extremely supportive, often taking on additional work to ensure the main agency objectives are still met.”

“I think I can speak for all of us who were given the opportunity to represent our entire DCMA team in its support of this effort,” said Renner. “Requests were made of DCMA, questions were asked within DCMA and support was provided by DCMA. Ultimately, the product needed to save lives was delivered to our frontline healthcare providers and our fellow citizens. We, the DCMA Data Integration Cell, are all very proud to have been selected to represent the entire DCMA team as we came together for this fight to do what we do best: deliver global acquisition insight that matters.”

In addition to Evans and Renner, Aaron Economou, an operations research analyst with the agency’s Portfolio Management and Business Integration Directorate, is another one of the last members left on the JRAC still focusing on their COVID response mission.

Other agency employees who have worked on the JRAC this year include Dave Harper, Don Miller, Jason McNutt, Brad Renner, Sig Evans, Army Col. Wyeth Anderson, Air Force Capt. Steve Terrill, and Air Force Capt. Aaron Redfield.