Supply Corps Reservists Apply Data, Logistics Expertise to COVID-19 Pandemic

21 May 2020

From Matthew Morrison

A group of Navy Supply Corps Reservists are lending their expertise to a federal task force to help provide personal protective equipment to medical facilites around the nation.

A group of Navy Supply Corps Reservists are lending their expertise to a federal task force to help provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical facilites around the nation.

Cmdr. John McCann, Lt. Cmdr. Marquita Pfannenstiel, and Lt. Edward Garnett are serving under the direction of Rear Adm. John Polowczyk as members of the Data Analytics Team on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force. Lt. Jonathan Gibb, Lt. Cmdr. Frank Brewster, and Lt. Cmdr. Karim Shabazz, now off orders, were recently part of the task force.

The task force was created by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services as one of eight COVID-19-focused task forces under the National Response Coordination Center.

Both Garnett and Pfannenstiel noted the value of the civilian experience they've brought to the table.

"Serving on the task force has been a chance for me to combine my civilian experience working with data and my Navy Supply Corps training,” Garnett said. “It's been rewarding to be able to provide visibility into key [PPE] deliveries to support the fight against COVID-19.”

Pfannenstiel agreed. "This experience has been one of the highlights of my Navy career," she said. "It challenged me but still allowed me to apply my civilian experience with my Navy supply background.

"When you join the Navy, you hope for the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way," she added. "I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the COVID-19 response."

The Reservists’ role is to respond to mission-critical requests from the White House and other senior decisionmakers for data and insights on the supply chain. The team responds using a variety of sources, including the Supply Control Tower, a visualization tool that provides insight into PPE deliveries across the country. The tower, built in collaboration with a contractor, streamlines the previously inefficient process of providing data to inform strategic decisions.

Every day, major private sector medical-surgical distributors send transaction-level data to an HHS secure folder. That data is ingested, cleaned, and displayed in the Supply Control Tower, a tableau display allowing the data to be easily used in maps, tables, graphs or other formats.

These visualizations enable the Data Analytics Team to provide visibility of PPE to the White House COVID-19 Task Force, FEMA leadership, and state governors.

McCann said the Supply Control Tower has been vital to the effective distribution of PPE. “The tower has been very successful," he said. "It provides FEMA a critical view of PPE flowing from manufacturers to the distributors and, ultimately, to the hospital level. It's been a critical tool in providing visibility into the needs of healthcare workers on the front lines.”

The tower displays the delivery of five categories of PPE, including N-95 masks, surgical and procedural masks, surgical and isolation gowns, exam and surgical gloves, and eye/face shields. The delivery of these products can be displayed geographically, giving decision makers the ability to focus additional attention to COVID-19 hot spots.

The needs in the fight against COVID-19 continue to evolve, but so does the team’s approach. To  remain adaptable, the team solicits feedback from end-users and prioritizes features that deliver the most insight to senior leaders.

The next phase for the Data Analytics team is to provide visibility on medications, pharmaceuticals, and testing supplies.

Assistant Commander for Reserve Affairs Capt. Rodney Tugade noted the important contributions of the Navy Reservists. “This is a perfect example of the competitive edge that our Reserve teammates provide to the fleet," he said.

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