Even under normal conditions, domestic clothing supply chains can be unpredictable and very dynamic. The pandemic, exacerbated some of these pre-existing challenges, resulting in historic uniform shortages. In the early months of the pandemic, the Coast Guard was faced with a limited supply of operational dress uniforms (ODU) due to COVID-19 outbreaks at manufacturing hubs in Puerto Rico. Many sizes of ODUs were restricted to “recruit issue only,” which allowed the Uniform Distribution Center (UDC) to outfit incoming recruits with a full sea bag. Now that the manufacturing hubs in Puerto Rico are once again operational, the supply chain for ODUs is to near normal levels.
However, we are still facing supply challenges for both the Bravo jacket and dress pants making these uniform items very difficult to come by. Much of the reserve inventory has been exhausted and suppliers are unable to meet demand due, in large part, to domestic labor shortages. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has been taking all possible action to find alternate suppliers, including temporarily converting the existing U.S. Navy contracts to meet the needs of the Coast Guard. We can expect deliveries from the contract conversion in the July/August timeframe. In the long term, DLA has secured several additional suppliers and the first delivery from the new contracts are expected in September of 2021. Despite all efforts, over the next few months there will be a delay in fully outfitting some of the incoming recruits and cadets with Bravo jackets.
Moving forward, we are implementing a number of modernization efforts in the uniform supply chain, which should reduce our vulnerabilities. On the recruit training side, we are partnering with DLA to modernize our uniform inventory management tools, predictive analysis, and other processes while also leveraging DLA's buying power.