WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department has established a joint task force to deal with daily requests the department is receiving for medical and personal protective equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, and others.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said she has established the Joint Acquisition Task Force to deal with the influx of requests.
"The task force will synchronize the DOD acquisition response to this crisis, working closely with all the services and defense agencies," she explained. "The task force will leverage DOD authorities for maximum acquisition flexibility to provide resilient capability in the current health crisis."
The task force will prioritize and direct the Defense Production Act authorities and funding in response to the immediate crisis, Lord added. It also is focused on reducing reliance on foreign supply sources, she said.
"I can't stress enough the importance of the data repositories and portals we have in [Defense Contracting Management Agency] industrial policy and those we are establishing under the JATF," she said. "These repositories allow us to bring in critical feedback from the contracting officer level all the way up to the Pentagon."
DOD is also providing portals for good ideas from industry, so that there is one repository where all can go to see what is being offered in terms of technical assistance and manufacturing capability, Lord said.
Last week, DOD had four, productive "synch" calls with Defense Industry Association leaders and other key associations. The calls provided important feedback that allowed Pentagon leaders to make significant progress on matters such as the critical defense contractor workforce's ability to continue working; ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and getting standardized guidance out to industry, she said.
"I'm working closely with DHS. I issued a memo that defined essentiality in the defense industrial base workforce, ensuring that DIB's critical employees can continue working," Lord added.
"This was very important," she said, "because industrial leaders told us that state and local government had different shelter-in-place rule guidelines, with some even issuing misdemeanor citations to workers trying to get to work."
Lord said her memorandum will help ensure continuity of mission with a full commitment to the safety of the workforce and state and local governments.
Additionally, the director of the Defense Contracting Management Agency has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to ensure invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner, Lord said.
"Our office of small business programs within industrial policy reached out to industry small businesses and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small-business emergency loan program to help protect these companies," she said.
"We know innovation comes in large part from small businesses, and we remain committed to supporting these small businesses," Lord said.
Moving forward, DOD remains fully engaged with the interagency effort to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the defense industrial base, Lord said.
"As we discussed with the Joint Acquisition Task Force, it's important that everything we do has joint representation, a joint mindset and the joint warfighter in mind," she emphasized. "It is critically important we understand that during this crisis, the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, so we need to ensure companies can stay in business without losing their technology."
Lord said DOD is working as smartly and quickly as possible — in close coordination with Congress, state governors, and the defense industrial base — to do everything it can to support military members, their families, defense contractors and U.S. citizens.
"We recognize how serious this pandemic and national emergency is," she said. "And we will remain fully transparent and provide oversight and accountability in all we do."