WASHINGTON -- Since January, when the effects of COVID-19 started to be felt in the United States, the Defense Department's priority has been to protect the more than 3 million service members, their families and all DOD civilians and contractors, while continuing the national security mission, said a top DOD official.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, briefed reporters at the Pentagon today about the Defense Department's response to the pandemic.
"We continue to honor the continued sacrifice and selfless service of our service members deployed around the country who are still supporting and protecting the American people," she said.
To date, the department placed more than $3 billion in contract obligations, spanning more than 18,000 actions to combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), in particular, is continuing to coordinate with the military services to understand requirements and priorities to protect the force, Lord noted. DLA has procured 5.9 million N95 respirator masks, 14.2 million nonmedical surgical masks, 118 million examination gloves, 2.7 million isolation and surgical gowns and 8,000 ventilators, and 13 million nonmedical cloth face coverings, she told reporters.
Also, DOD is partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, providing almost $800 million in lifesaving supplies and equipment to service members and federal agencies.
Additionally, the department is carefully monitoring the pandemic's impact on the defense industrial base, Lord noted, adding that the monitoring agencies are the Defense Contracting Management Agency and DLA.
Out of 10,509 companies DCMA tracks, only two are currently closed and 267 companies which had been closed are now reopened, she said, and out of 11,413 companies DLA tracks, 31 are closed, with 661 having closed and reopened.
Lord said that COVID-19 has caused a slowdown of all programs in the defense industrial base. "We have seen inefficiencies across most programs," she said. "COVID-19 is shutting down defense manufacturing facilities and production lines, disrupting supply chains and distressing the financial stability of the companies DOD relies on to protect the nation."
Last week DOD completed its 14th aeromedical evacuation mission, safely transporting COVID-19-positive patients from forward-deployed locations to a higher level of care in Europe and the United States, Lord said. These missions moved 78 people in all, including service members, family members, DOD civilians and contractors.
"We are fully committed to the safety of our aircrew, medical support staff and patients during these missions," Lord added.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell — who partner with the Joint Staff, U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force — make these missions possible, she said.