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Pentagon to Address Supply Chain Issues Unveiled by Pandemic

September 8, 2021 by Reece Nations
The Pentagon in Arlington county, Va.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is establishing a supply chain resiliency working group to address systemic barriers that limit “supply chain visibility” in addition to performing resiliency assessments and developing effective mitigation measures.

In February, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing government agencies to commence comprehensive reviews of critical domestic supply chains in order to identify their risks and address vulnerabilities to develop strategies that promote resilience. This order was signed by Biden in response to supply chain challenges for critical medical resources magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortcomings in the national supply chain systems “emphasized the need for resiliency in our industrial base, and this continues to be a priority for the [Biden-Harris administration],” DoD officials said in a press release.

“We are working to solve a problem that took 50 years to evolve,” Gregory Kausner, who performs the duties of undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, said in a written statement. “A comprehensive strategic approach will take time, dedicated attention, and resources. Effective implementation begins with understanding our vulnerabilities and the necessary responses, so we can focus our efforts to build greater resiliency across critical supply chains.”

The working group will be led by the Defense Department’s Office of Industrial Policy and will leverage ongoing supply chain strengthening efforts across the department and the interagency, DOD officials said in a release. The group’s findings will be included in the one-year report on the defense industrial base as directed by Biden’s executive order and will continue over the course of the next two years.

Recent National Defense Authorization Acts require the DOD to improve cognition of its supply chains and the threats to their stability and security. In June, TWN reported the Government Accountability Office issued a report addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in DOD inventory management systems used to oversee the national defense supply chain.

In its report, the GAO issued a series of recommendations that ranged from revising standard operating procedures to include system-specific monitoring strategies to directing the Defense Logistics Agency director to institute an assessment plan approval process that ensures designated authorizing official reviews and approves system assessment plans. The GAO report reviewed risks to six inventory management systems run by the DLA.

“The working group is a down payment on a long-term problem,” Jesse Salazar, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy, said in a written statement. “It coalesces efforts from across the department and provides a mechanism to develop a framework and proactive strategy to change the way DOD does business, and better secure our supply chains.”

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