The Defense Logistics Agency is proactively procuring cloth face masks to protect Defense Department employees against the coronavirus. The agency began working with American manufacturers to award contracts for reusable, non-surgical, cloth face masks in various styles soon after DOD released guidance requiring people to wear cloth masks on DOD property, installations and facilities in early April.
The largest contract makes 1 to 23 million masks available for purchase by DLA customers at less than $4 each, said Joseph Szwec, DLA Troop Support Clothing and Textiles acquisition manager for special purpose clothing. The contract is worth about $86 million and runs through Dec. 31.
An additional 554,000 masks will be available through other contracts designed to diversify the manufacturing base, Szwec added.
DLA is ordering the masks in cases of 1,000 to offer military customers a lower price than if masks were purchased individually.
“What we’re doing now is a proactive approach,” said Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment Division Chief Eboni Martin. “We usually get a requirement, then award a contract. However, the contracting team thought ‘outside of the box’ to develop real-world requirements to come up with a solution, prior to receiving requirements, so that we could support the community faster.”
The first 955,000 masks are scheduled to arrive at a C&T third-party logistics warehouse by the end of May with the first 60,000 arriving April 24 followed by increasing weekly shipments. From there, DLA will work with military leaders to prioritize distribution of the masks.
C&T’s coordination with vendors and customers, as well as internally, has been via telework due to widespread social distancing, said Jorge Valentin Torres, OCIE planning supervisor.
“It’s been very impressive, and very emotional to me – the extraordinary job everyone is doing to get this done, especially how quickly the acquisition team went out to industry to find an item, how the technical team placed the items [National Stock Numbers] right away, as well as planning and customer personnel getting products on FedMall [for customers to place orders],” she said.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord also lauded DLA’s support providing face masks in a press conference April 20.
“We have ordered face coverings for the workforce – 3 million active duty, guard, reserve and government civilians – with deliveries starting this week,” Lord said. “I remain very proud of DLA, DCMA [Defense Contracting Management Agency], DTRA [Defense Threat Reduction Agency], the Joint Acquisition Task Force, and the entire department's efforts to support the whole-of-government and interagency battle against COVID-19.”