Yesterday, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord issued a Memorandum for Defense Industrial Base stating that certain defense contractors are part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce to national security and are therefore expected to "maintain [their] normal work schedule" during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The memo provides:
Consistent with the President's guidelines: "If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule." The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce for the DIB includes workers who support the essential products and services required to meet national security commitments to the Federal Government and the U.S. Military. These individuals, include, but are not limited to, aerospace; mechanical and software engineers; manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support; aircraft and weapons systems mechanics and maintainers; suppliers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals; and critical transportation.
The memo also provides that this workforce includes personnel for both primes and subcontractors providing services and materials to the DoD and to Government-owned/contractor-operated and Government-owned/Government-operated facilities. Interestingly, the memo identifies contractors that are not part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Such contractors include, for example, contractors providing office supplies, recreational support, or lawn care.
Lastly, while the memo cautions DIB contractors to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other State and local government strategies to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, DIB contractors that are part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce are nonetheless expected to "maintain their normal work schedules."
For some defense contractors, particularly small businesses who are more susceptible to cash flow issues, the memo is likely welcome news in the wake uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. And while the memo is not law but rather is based on DHS/CISA guidance that is advisory in nature, Bloomberg news reports that it is also being sent to governor associations and to Capitol Hill. In so doing, this would presumably enable State and local governments that are considering a shutdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 to carve out from any shutdown order those DIB contractors and personnel who provide products or services that are essential to U.S. national security.
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