Are the White House coronavirus briefings about to create another media star?

Sean D. Naylor
National Security Correspondent

In the wake of Anthony Fauci’s rise from obscure epidemiologist to fame as a mainstay of the late afternoon press briefings and the man to whom many Americans look for truth about the virus, now comes Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, a no-nonsense logistician plucked from the Pentagon’s Joint Staff to take charge of the procurement and distribution of urgently needed medical equipment.

A 1987 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Polowczyk has spent more than three decades learning the intricacies of supply chain management, which — according to retired Cmdr. Chris Harmer — makes him perfect for his new job. Two weeks ago, Polowczyk was appointed as supply chain task force leader at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“He is the right guy to do this,” said Harmer, who added that he does not know Polowczyk personally. “He’s got about the best background you could hope for for a guy who’s being told to do this kind of thing. He knows contracts, he knows acquisition, he knows supply chain management.”

Indeed, Polowczyk has spent “his entire career in supply chain management within the military industrial complex, so it’s a good fit in terms of trying to organize the industrial base to assist FEMA,” Harmer said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Polowczyk has a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., another from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., and has served aboard a fast attack submarine, a destroyer and an amphibious assault ship, in addition to stints as a senior logistician in Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and as the head of Naval Supply Systems Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. One place he’s never been, however, is standing in the sort of limelight into which he was thrust at the White House briefing Thursday.

In the Navy, “the supply officers generally stay in the background,” Harmer said. “Their job is to get supplies from point A to point B. As long as they do that, nobody pays attention to them. The only time they really get famous is if they screw up.” 

In his appearance on Thursday, Polowczyk effectively presented the facts at his disposal without being drawn into any controversial exchanges, according to Mark Jacobson, a former special assistant to the secretary of the Navy. “The admiral did a really good job ... not even avoiding but answering the political questions in a way that makes political journalists unhappy but makes everyone else thrilled,” Jacobson said. 

“I was impressed,” he added. “I’d never heard of this guy before.”

A native of Manhasset on Long Island, N.Y., Polowczyk was keen on Thursday to explain that with a sister who is a nurse practitioner in a hospital in Westchester County, N.Y., and a niece who is a nurse in a Long Island hospital, he does not lack for motivation in fulfilling Trump’s directive to get more supplies to American health care workers immediately. “I have skin in this game,” he said.

Win McNamee/Getty Images


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