The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) gave a small business in Georgia a roughly $240,000 fixed-price contract to provide almost a quarter-million, China-made N95-style respirator masks for its contractor and federal employees, the agency announced Monday.
The semi-autonomous Department of Energy nuclear-weapons agency planned to order 186,000 would be for contractors at various NNSA and DoE sites, and 39,000 would be for federal employees, according to a procurement note posted online. American Dream Builders of Douglasville, Ga., won the contract. The address to which the business is registered in federal procurement databases is a single-family-style residential home, according to Google Maps.
“This order is to procure masks for NNSA to meet expected demand when employees return to work,” an agency spokesperson wrote in an email Monday. “The masks are intended to protect personnel if and when they are unable to meet social distancing guidance and will be procured for DoE and NNSA as needed.”
The NNSA had about 44,000 contractor and federal employees as of November, according to the agency. More than 1,750 of those are federal employees, according to the agency’s 2021 budget request. At that rate, there would be around 20 masks per federal employee and about four masks per contractor, according to the agency’s 2021 budget request.
DoE overall, which devotes roughly two-thirds of its budget to either making nuclear weapons or cleaning up waste created by nuclear weapons, has roughly 95,000 contractors and 14,000 federal employees, including those at NNSA sites.
N95 respirators are fabric masks that fit over a person’s nose and mouth. KN-95 is the designation for a similar Chinese-made mask. Properly fitted, the masks can protect people from becoming infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that broke out in Wuhan, China, last year.
Most of the contractors at NNSA’s nuclear weapons laboratories, at least, are not currently working on site.
Even at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is building a plutonium pit factory that is supposed to start casting 10 fissile weapon cores a year starting in 2024, only about 15% of the workforce is on site, according to Thomas Mason, the lab director. That is a little under 2,000 people, compared with more than 12,700 employees, subcontractors, construction workers and post-doctoral researchers.
On the other hand, NNSA’s weapons-production sites are still asking most people involved with hands-on nuclear weapons work to report to their usual stations on site. Combined, the Kansas City National Security Campus in Kansas City, Mo., the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., employ about 13,500 people. However, all three sites are requiring just about every employee who can telework to do so.
The NNSA as of Friday had confirmed 69 cases of COVID-19 among its workforce since the U.S. outbreak started in late January. Of those, 29 had recovered, and none had died as of Friday. Each NNSA site has cases of COVID-19. Typically, the number of confirmed cases is much smaller than the number of people who wind up quarantining at home after possible contact with someone who later tested positive.