FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
The Defense Logistics Agency is making it easier for small businesses to purchase non-medical personal protective equipment to use while performing government contracts.
The new COVID-19 Contingency Corridor in FedMall, Defense Department’s e-commerce platform, allows small business contractors to buy items like non-medical masks and gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, temperature sensors and Plexi-glass shields. As of June 22, the corridor offered over 200 items through nine vendor catalogs.
Small businesses represent a critical component of the defense industrial base, said Dwight Deneal, director of DLA’s Office of Small Business Programs, adding that the agency is working with DOD officials and industry associations to help ensure the safety of those who provide critical warfighter support.
“This capability will support reconstitution of our contractor workforce, including small businesses that have had difficulties purchasing sufficient quantities of non-medical personal protective equipment for their employees,” Deneal said.
The agency is reviewing catalogs of another 20 suppliers and helping them complete FedMall registration through local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers that provide free training and counseling to small businesses.
DLA officials are also finalizing plans to open the corridor to state and local government agencies by mid-July. Federal law allows such agencies to buy most equipment that DOD uses for its own purposes that is suitable for use in counter-drug, homeland security and emergency response activities. Over 30 state law enforcement agencies and over 300 state and local firefighting agencies are already enrolled in FedMall.
To use the corridor, state and local government agencies will need DOD-issued External Certificate Authority, similar to the certificate authority of Common Access Cards. ECAs require background checks and can take two to three weeks to obtain. State and local government agencies must also pay the ECA issuing cost, which is $380 for a three-year subscription.
DLA is monitoring purchases from small businesses and other federal agencies to ensure DOD orders aren’t impacted. FedMall system controls prevent state and local users from buying military-grade equipment.
FedMall has been a key part of DLA’s COVID-19 response, and customers have ordered over $14 million in pandemic-related supplies through the platform since mid-March. Face masks, cleaning supplies, and Meals, Ready to Eat have been among the most popular items, with face masks accounting for over one-third of all COVID-19 purchases.
In fiscal 2019, 40,000 active users – 70% U.S. military – purchased $312 million in supplies from FedMall. Of the 900 commercial suppliers registered to sell products via FedMall, 70% were small businesses.