A bipartisan group of lawmakers representing Ohio have written senior Pentagon leaders, seeking guidance for its local contractor community related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, written April 1, requests that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord provide “clear, uniform guidance” for Ohio’s aerospace defense contractor community, particularly those serving the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
“We appreciate the guidance issued by the Office of Management and Budget (0MB) within the last two weeks as well as the memorandum released by Under Secretary Lord on March 20, 2020 regarding designation of the Defense Industrial Base as Essential Critical Infrastructure,” the letter said. “Despite the prompt release of this instruction, we are concerned that guidance to the defense contractor workforce remains ambiguous and lacks uniformity in application.”
The lawmakers urge Esper and Lord and their teams to direct contracting officers to take the following actions: Allow workers to work remotely “to the maximum extent possible” to keep programs on track while keeping employees safe; direct contractors who are performing work on research-and-development contracts “as mission essential personnel”; provide contractors with more flexibility to meet contractual obligations, including personnel qualifications or flexible schedules; and exercise available authorities from the Office of Management and Budget and the recent 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to maintain a source of cash flow.
“The defense contractor community needs stability and continuity in this time of crisis and these steps will enable contractors to meet their obligations while protecting their workforce,” the letter said.
The letter was co-signed by Ohio’s two senators, Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. It was also co-signed by six U.S. representatives, including Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan, and Republican Reps. Mike Turner, Steve Chabot, David Joyce and Warren Davidson.
Turner, whose district includes Wright-Patterson AFB, sits on the House Armed Services Committee. Kaptur chairs the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee. Ryan sits on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.