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EDITORIAL COMMENT: The Serving Line


April 2012
MPA, M is for Mystery

In any good mystery, the story unfolds slowly as the facts are gradually revealed for discovery. The pace at which facts are revealed, however, draws a fine line between the reader's being entertained or becoming frustrated.

Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Troop Support appears to be walking such a line with its enigmatic implementation of the Manufacturer Pricing Agreement (MPA). A simpler, more straightforward explanation to manufacturers of when and how DLA plans to implement and enforce the program may be more effective at raising participation.

The MPA program was established in 2009 to realize new pricing criteria for DLA Troop Support's OCONUS Subsistence Prime Vendor program. At the time, no specific timetable was given for companies to comply with the program.

Recently, however, Troop Support has indicated that in the next few months it will be in position to aggressively enforce the MPA pricing criteria, which is that “When a DLA Troop Support MPA is available, the MPA price shall be used for the product price.”

Once enforced, companies without MPAs risk being excluded as suppliers to DLA Troop Support. Those actively negotiating in good faith will not be excluded because an agreement is not finalized.

Progress in raising compliance is being made, but gradually. As of early March 2012, the number of manufacturers with MPAs reached 88, up from the 53 in late summer of 2011. Nearly 130 MPA proposals are still being negotiated.

One reason for the gradual progress is that Troop Support had not considered it responsible or prudent to implement the MPA without allowing manufacturers and distributors time to phase in their business practices to accommodate the new criterion.

Toward that end, it stepped up negotiations with manufacturers to encourage participation. DLA Troop Support's MPA office initiated one-on-one teleconferences with prospective MPA holders in which key staff members from both sides come together to hammer out an agreement. DLA sets a day to address that manufacturer's proposal exclusively.

Throughout its history, DLA, including DLA Troop Support, has remained committed to refining its mission as the hub for cost-effective rapid, centralized procurement.

It is the source of nearly 100 percent of the consumable items needed by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force as well as other federal agencies, and deserves recognition for being aggressive about pursuing the best price in support of federal budget constraints.

It is understandable that DLA wants to enforce the MPA in order to reduce fraud and best manage taxpayer money. To succeed in implementing the MPA program, DLA needs to simplify the participation criteria and make the process less of a mystery.