The U.S. Defense Department has divided the world into six geographic unified combatant commands – Europe (EUCOM), Africa (AFRICOM), Central (CENTCOM – basically, the Middle East), North America (NORTHCOM), South America (SOUTHCOM), and Pacific (PACOM – including Asia). The Defense Logistics Agency’s interface to those falls to three regional commands – DLA Europe & Africa (DLA-E/A), DLA Central, and DLA Pacific – each headed by an Army colonel.
The current structure came into being in July 2005, when a general order was issued establishing DLA’s existing operations in Europe, the Pacific, and CENTCOM as regional commands, responsible for logistics support to U.S. forces involved in or with some 150 nations.
Today, DLA Pacific is the geographically largest regional command, encompassing 100 million square miles, 36 nations, and more than half the world’s population. Its 1,500 personnel, about one-third military, are nearly double that of DLA-E/A (about 800) and five times the number in DLA Central. The DLA effort across that vast expanse began with lessons learned during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, but also relies heavily on modern technology and cooperation with its sister commands.
The area of responsibility (AOR) for DLA Europe & Africa doubled with the stand-up of AFRICOM and now comprises 55.8 million square miles, 103 nations in all of Europe, and parts of Africa, Asia, and North America. It runs from 500 miles off the Atlantic coast of the United States to the Pacific coast of Russia, spanning 18 time zones, two-thirds of Earth’s coastlines, and every environmental condition the planet has to offer.
DLA Central is the smallest – about 300 personnel, 200 of whom are in Afghanistan – but arguably the busiest, as its AOR includes Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, the logistics requirements of the Southwest Asian combat zone are so extensive that CENTCOM and DLA Central also receive support from the other two regional commands, with DLA-E/A providing about 30 percent of the AOR’s military logistics support.
The overarching mission of each regional command is to provide a single point of contact for customers seeking DLA support for their requirements. Those needs then are coordinated across DLA’s forward capabilities, with reach-back to the continental U.S. (CONUS), providing what one former DLA-E/A commander termed “synchronized and responsive full-spectrum commodities and services logistics support to the COCOMs.”
“DLA is now a unified mechanism with the warfighter throughout the Pacific, providing full-spectrum training, supply, and coordination for the services,” Col. Joe E. Arnold, commanding officer of DLA Pacific at Camp Smith, Hawaii, explained. “We provide full-time logistics planning and coordination to maximize the potentials for our warfighters. We do that through three major areas – warfighter support, stewardship, and workforce development.
“Having been on the receiving end as a customer, I’ve seen it grow to a point where our military services are dependent on DLA’s capability to get much-needed items into the hands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as they prepare for everything from exercises to combat operations.”
Some of his region’s evolution also relates directly to a decade of combat in the adjacent AOR of Southwest Asia.
“There are organizations within the Pacific that are an integral part of the rotation cycle into Southwest Asia, so the same level of support required for organizations preparing for deployment or redeployment and doing reset operations on the mainland also is true for those organizations out here,” he added.
“A steady state situation is much different from preparing for combat, and ramps up the support requirements. But that is DLA’s bread and butter, to ensure we provide the warfighter with full spectrum logistics as part of their planning to maximize their combat readiness.”
DLA Pacific has obvious differences from its two sister regional commands, with far fewer U.S. facilities – both bases and logistics depots – separated by great expanses of water, compared to the largely ground-based geography of Europe, Africa, and western Asia. Those differences also are reflected in the configuration of the U.S. military services and their support requirements.
“In Europe, the regional commander has the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, just as I do here in the Pacific, although here it is a little heavier on the Navy and Air Force than other regions, which may be more Army-centric,” Arnold noted, adding Pacific customers also include the U.S. Coast Guard, which works closely with Pacific nation navies and coast guards. “But at the end of the day, we are providing the same level of support to our warfighter customers.