As troops move into the Middle East, the center that keeps them fed and clothed is putting suppliers to work making more hot-weather boots, camouflage bandages and canned meals.
The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia last year arranged purchases of $7.8 billion worth of food, clothing, medical supplies, hardware, lumber and other goods for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Those orders could reach $8.5 billion to $9 billion this year, the center estimates, with President Bush having sent troops, planes and ships to war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"Anything a soldier eats, anything they need to be cared for, anything they wear, or use for constructing buildings and things like that, comes from the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia," center spokesman Frank Johnson said.
With more than 300,000 troops amassed in the Middle East, the center has asked bootmakers to increase production of warm-weather boots from 37,000 pairs a month to 50,000, and it hopes to eventually step that up to 125,000, Johnson said.
Companies that make canned "meals ready to eat," or MREs, are also being asked to accelerate production, from 36 million meals a year to more than 85 million.
About 480 disabled workers who make dark green camouflage bandages at Elwyn Industries near Media, Pa., are working overtime to deliver an order for 1.4 million bandages by June instead of the end of the year as originally scheduled.
None of the boots, bandages, food, hardware, tents, flags or lumber actually go through the Philadelphia center. They are instead stored at and shipped from warehouses such as the center's Defense Distribution Center at New Cumberland , Pa., at the center's order.
Often, the supplies ordered by the Philadelphia center are shipped directly from manufacturers to the service units that order them, particularly when it comes to food for the bases. Needham Meats in Omaha, for example, has a contract to supply beef, including rib-eyes and T-bone steaks, to troops in Kuwait.
The military adopted the just-in-time delivery concept that private manufacturers use because it avoids big inventories of costly parts and supplies.
"What we have been trying to do for the last 10 years is avoid a lot of depoting, because it is ungodly expensive," Johnson said.
The center also uses suppliers where troops are located for such perishables as bread and milk. Buying where the troops are not only provides fresh food but also rewards allies.
"They are letting us use Kuwait as a stand-up area," Johnson said. "If we can buy from the local economy, we will."