Politics

Pentagon spends hundreds of millions of dollars in the fight against coronavirus

Key Points
  • The Pentagon has opened a colossal war chest to finance the deadly coronavirus fight.
  • On the evening of April 10, the Department of Defense received approval from the White House Task Force to execute the first coronavirus project under the Defense Production Act Title 3.
  • Since then, the Pentagon has procured more than 4.5 million N95 respirator masks, 13.7 million non-medical and surgical masks, 94.6 million exam gloves and 2.5 million isolation and surgical gowns.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Hao Lienh, assigned to Commander Task Force 56, stands watch on a Mark VI patrol boat before a weapons sustainment exercise in the Arabian Gulf, April 16, 2020.
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kory Alsberry | US Navy

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has opened a colossal war chest to finance its fight against the deadly coronavirus.

The Pentagon has procured more than 4.5 million N95 respirator masks, 13.7 million non-medical and surgical masks, 94.6 million exam gloves and 2.5 million isolation and surgical gowns. The agency has also begun delivery of more than 7.3 million non-medical, cloth face coverings to the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. military installations as well as other Department of Defense organizations.

The Pentagon's logistics arm has also ordered 8,000 ventilators to be used by Health and Human Services and the DOD.

The Defense Logistics Agency, which manages the Pentagon's global supply chain, has executed 6,036 contract actions with $667.3 million in obligations for the coronavirus effort. Of the $667.3 million, approximately $628 million was allocated to supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Pentagon's efforts began on the evening of April 10, when the DOD received approval from the White House Task Force to execute the first coronavirus project under the Defense Production Act Title 3.

A Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares for a Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., on May 7.
Spc. Hubert Delany III | US Army

The next day, the Pentagon invested $133 million to increase domestic production of N95 masks by more than 39 million within 90 days.

"The increased production will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation," wrote U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, in a statement.

The $133 million for N95 masks was divvied up between three companies: 3M, O&M Halyward and Honeywell. The lion's share of the money, $76 million, went to 3M to produce 78 million units within six months.

U.S. Army Spc. Kinnis White, a Soldier assigned to the Ohio National Guard's HHC 1-148th Infantry Regiment – 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, inspects and finalizes food boxes before public distribution at First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, Ohio, May 1, 2020.
Senior Airman Kregg York | U.S. Air National Guard

Last month, the Pentagon awarded a $415 million contract for 60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems, which can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day. The system is expected to enable mask reuse for up to 20 times. 

"All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and HHS. Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week," the Pentagon wrote in a statement.

Last week, the Pentagon announced it will invest $75.5 million, under the Defense Production Act Title 3, to increase swab production by 20 million per month starting in May. 

Puritan Medical Products snagged the multimillion-dollar contract on April 29 to finance a new manufacturing facility capable of doubling its current monthly output of 20 million to 40 million swabs. 

Sailors assigned to Task Force 75.5 prepare to lift a tent during construction of a 150-bed expeditionary medical facility at Naval Base Guam.
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julio Rivera | US Navy

The military's U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the Pentagon's coronavirus efforts, has deployed approximately 13,700 people, including 2,400 medical personnel. Additionally, the Navy's two hospital ships, the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort, were deployed to Los Angeles and New York City, respectively, to alleviate overcrowding in local hospitals.

Currently, more than 46,500 members of the National Guard are supporting the coronavirus response at the direction of state governors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is executing nearly 40 FEMA projects totaling $1.8 billion with 1,109 corps personnel deployed.

As of Thursday, the coronavirus has sickened 7,702 people across the Department of Defense and killed 27, according to figures provided by the Pentagon.