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COVID-19 Plant Closures Affect DOD's Industrial Base

April 20, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The most serious impacts to the Defense Department from COVID-19-related industrial closures domestically are in the aviation supply chain, shipbuilding and small space launch, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said.

Speaking at a Pentagon news conference today, Ellen M. Lord said that internationally, several pockets of industrial base closures are affecting DOD, particularly in Mexico.

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Lord said she's working with the State Department and with the Mexican government to try to get those companies reopened. ''These companies are especially important for our U.S. airframe production,'' she added.

The Defense Contract Management Agency is carefully tracking the state of the military's industrial base for the large prime companies, Lord said, and the Defense Logistics Agency is monitoring smaller vendors.

Out of 10,509 prime companies, 106 are closed, Lord said, noting that 68 other companies had closed, but have since reopened. Out of 11,413 vendor-based companies, she said, 427 are closed, with 147 that had closed and are now reopened.

A rocket launches from a launch pad.
Atlas Rocket
An Atlas V AEHF-6 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 26, 2020.
Photo By: Joshua Conti, Air Force
VIRIN: 200326-F-KD758-1007T

Lord also provided an update of current COVID-19 actions taken by DOD.

The department is working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contracting for about $500 million in lifesaving supplies and equipment to service members and federal agencies, she said.

This support includes providing 60 decontamination systems that can sterilize up to 80,000 N95 masks per day. They are on order, she said, with some already delivered.

A ship enters dry dock.
USS Vicksburg
The guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg is maneuvered during a docking evolution at BAE Systems Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., March 24, 2020.
Photo By: Hendrick L. Dickson, Navy
VIRIN: 200324-N-KP445-1011T

DLA is working closely with the services to better understand COVID-19 requirements, such as quantities of personal protective equipment for various locations, Lord said. DLA has provided 1.8 million N95 masks, 3.2 million nonmedical surgical masks, 54.8 million exam gloves, 8,000 ventilators and 275,000 isolation and surgical gowns to the services and several federal agencies, she said.

Additionally, Lord said, 3 million face coverings have been ordered for DOD personnel, with deliveries starting this week. She said she expects 135,000 delivered by the end of this month and 580,000 by the end of next month.

Woman seated at a table with a microphone speaks. There is a sign in the background stating that it is “The Pentagon.”
Lord Briefing
Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, speaks at a Pentagon news conference on the effects of COVID-19 on the military industrial base, April 20, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders
VIRIN: 200420-D-XI929-001

Last week U.S. Transportation Command was able to use the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Transport Isolation System to move three COVID-19-positive cases from Afghanistan to Germany. These systems were developed during the 2014 Ebola outbreak but were never used until now, she said.

At-risk contractor employees in Afghanistan will leave that nation due to insufficient medical capability there, Lord said, noting that the projected number who redeploy will likely be less than 1,000.