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10 Apr 20. Newest DoD industry guidance clarifies repayments, makes prototyping easier. As part of its ongoing effort to bolster the defense industrial base, the Pentagon has issued two new pieces of guidance — one focused on workers, and one focused on prototype contracts.
Overall, the department has now issued 17 different actions, ranging from basic guidance for industry to memos changing how the department pays contractors, since March 5.
In an April 6 memo, acquisition head Ellen Lord changed the rules for issuing prototype contracts through other transaction authorities.
OTAs are small contracts awarded to companies of any size, in theory targeted at nontraditional defense contractors, with the purpose of conducting research or prototype efforts on a specific project; they are not subject to Federal Acquisition Regulation rules. By comparison, SBIR contracts are targeted at small businesses in order to act as seed money for them to conduct research and development efforts; they are subject to the FAR rules.
According to data gathered by Govini, the Pentagon issued $16.3 billion in OTA contracts between fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2019. Those numbers grew year over year during that time period, from $0.7 billion in FY15 to $7 billion in FY19.
Lord’s memo, which like other Pentagon industrial base guidance will last “for the period covered by the COVID-19 emergency declaration,” includes three pieces of guidance:
- Prototype project contracts in excess of $100m can now be issued by the directors of the defense agencies/field activities, commanding officers of combatant command, and the director of the Defense Innovation Unit.
- Prototype project agreements and any follow-on production contracts in excess of $500m can be issued by the senior procurement executives of the military departments, the director of DARPA and the director of the Missile Defense Agency. OT prototype actions between $100 and $500m can be delegated to lower officials as seen fit by the leaders of those organizations.
- Perhaps most notably, the memo attempts to make it easier to get prototype contracts specifically related to COVID-19 up and running, by relaxing a requirement to give the congressional defense committees a 30-day advance notice before issuing a transaction in excess of $500m for projects that are tied into the ongoing pandemic. Instead, the goal will be to make a notification “as soon as practicable after the commencement of such a transaction.”
Meanwhile, the department has also given new guidance related to a part of the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus package, which allows agencies to reimburse contractors for payments to their workforce, should they be prevented from working due to COVID-19 facility closures or other restrictions.
Under the new guidance, contracting officers at the department may decide not to reimburse in situations where employees or subcontractor employees were able to work, including remote or telework options, but choose not to; when the costs seeking reimbursement were not associated with keeping employees in a ready state; when costs were incurred prior to January 31, 2020, or after September 30, 2020; or when the contractor has been or can be reimbursed by other means.
Additionally, the reimbursement is not an option for costs not related to COVID-19 and, notably, is “subject to the availability of funds,” per a department statement. Advance payments are also not an option. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
09 Apr 20. DOD Allows Payments to Contractors Who Cannot Work Due to COVID-19 Facility Closures or Other Restrictions.
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman: “The Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) office has issued a class deviation to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) entitled, “CARES Act Section 3610 Implementation.” This deviation addresses section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which allows agencies to reimburse contractors for payment to workers who are prevented from working due to COVID-19 facility closures or other restrictions.
The deviation provides a framework for contracting officers to assess any claimed allowable costs associated with the declared public health emergency, recognizing the importance of supporting affected contractors to ensure that, together, we remain a healthy, resilient, and responsive total force. In short order, a forthcoming implementation guidance memo and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document will provide additional information and will be available at https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pacc/cc/COVID-19.html.
This class deviation is the 17th new COVID-19 guidance the Department of Defense’s Pricing and Contracting (DPC) office has provided to help relieve COVID-19 impacts for the Contracting Community.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Industrial Policy Jennifer Santos, and Acting Principal Director, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Mr. Kim Herrington, have worked extensively with the defense industrial associations, including the small business community, to identify cost, schedule and performance impacts beyond the control of the contractor, and to provide badly needed relief to help defense industry get through this national emergency.
We remain committed to daily engagements with the defense industry, and will continue to leverage defense trade association calls to partner with them throughout the duration of this national emergency to ensure the safety of the workforce and accomplishment of the national security mission.”
- DOD: https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/
- Joint Acquisition Task Force: https://www.acq.osd.mil/jatf.html
- Defense Contracting Management Agency: https://www.dcma.mil/ Industrial Policy: https://www.businessdefense.gov/coronavirus/
- Defense Pricing and Contracting: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pacc/cc/COVID-19.html
- Defense Acquisition University: https://www.dau.edu/ (Source: US DoD)
09 Apr 20. Despite COVID-19, U.S. Military Remains Ready to Fight. The Defense Department is doing a lot to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the nation, but its primary mission — the defense of the nation and its interests — continues unabated, Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said.
“To those who wish us harm, make no mistake: even with the challenges that this disease has brought to our shores, the Department of Defense stands ready to meet any threat and defend our nation,” Norquist said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. “Over the last four years, we have rebuilt our military from the negative effects of sequestration. We have more people, more advanced equipment, more munitions and are better trained. If our adversaries think this is our moment of weakness, they are dangerously wrong.”
Norquist said DOD support of state and local authorities in the fight against the coronavirus means that DOD people might end up with a higher rate of infection from the virus than other populations. But at the same time, he said, the youthful demographic of the U.S. military means that fewer of those who contract the virus will suffer severe consequences.
According to Defense Department statistics, of the 1,898 current coronavirus cases among active duty service members, only 64 required hospitalization.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said readiness across the department is where it needs to be.
“We watch the readiness of the force every day. And the readiness of the force, in aggregate, has not dropped as we’ve gone through this,” Hyten said. “That’s something that we have to watch very, very closely.
While there are “pockets” of degraded readiness across the force, such as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt staying in port in Guam longer than it normally would, the aggregate readiness is unaffected, he said.
What may eventually affect readiness, Hyten said, is a prolonged reduction in numbers of new recruits entering basic training for military service.
“We’ve had to cut down the pipeline into basic training in order to make sure that the folks that go into basic training, go into basic training in a safe, secure way. Each of the services, working in a different way, have constricted the pipeline of folks coming in,” Hyten said. “For a short period of time, that’s not a big issue. If that continues long, then all of a sudden our numbers come down. And that will eventually impact readiness if it goes on month after month after month.”
But for now, Hyten said, “our readiness is still full up.”
Hyten also said the department has some 50,000 personnel involved in the fight against the coronavirus — of those, he said, about 30,000 are from the National Guard and reserves.
The general cited one team of reservists, led by Col. Hans F. Otto at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as being emblematic of the dedication reservists and Guard members have had since being called up to duty to fight the coronavirus.
“They call themselves the ‘COVID Commandos,'” Hyten said. “Just four days ago, … their team — one doctor and six nurses — packed their bags, said goodbye to their families, [and] deployed to New York with 24 hours’ notice. … There’s been thousands of stories like that since the president mobilized the reserve [March 27].”
Across the department, military doctors, nurses and enlisted medical professionals are leaving home to deploy to places across the country to aid civilian doctors and protect the nation, the general said.
“They’re moving fast to help their fellow citizens in a time of crisis,” he added. “They’re helping to support the heroic doctors and nurses already there who are tired and have been fighting that disease for the last few weeks, and they need support. That’s what they’re there for. And that’s just a few examples of the sacrifice that citizen airmen and citizen soldiers are making from all units in order to fight and improve the lives of Americans.” (Source: US DoD)
08 Apr 20. USMC Put 3D Printing to Use in COVID-19 Fight. For Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael P. Burnham and Marine Corps Sgt. Blaine E. Garcia, a trailer-sized workspace filled with sweltering heat and the constant whine of more than a dozen machines running at full speed is simply the setting for just another day.
This day, however, involves bringing 3D printing to the fight for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, as they use their manufacturing skills against COVID-19.
For Burnham, who originally served as a machinist working with ground ordnance, and Garcia, who started his career working on jet engines, the process of 3D printing has become less of an unexpected turn in their service and more of a passion. Garcia has several 3D printers of his own, once used for hobbies and now put into the effort by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force to print the frames for thousands of masks and face shields.
Posters that surround the machines as they churn away highlight a success story for 3D printing in the 1st MAW and serve as an example of the sort of additive manufacturing that Burnham and Garcia have spent years perfecting.
Today, they have put their experience into the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus. In their workspace on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the two have turned their workspace, ordinarily used for 3D printing parts for aviation maintenance, into a personal protection equipment factory.
The goal, Burnham explained, is to reduce the need for medical-grade masks and respirators by providing an alternative supply of frames for masks and face shields for Marines and sailors assigned to the 3rd MEF and its supporting units, particularly those directly engaged in first-line medical care and screening.
The plastic frames being printed, Burnham said, started as 3D models on a computer, designed with input from medical professionals and incorporating open-source ideas from others in the 3D printing community. Once the design is settled, a program “slices” the model into a series of programs for the 3D printer, which can then assemble a complete object from up to thousands of layers of two-dimensional patterns formed by cooling jets of molten plastic.
The mask frames can be created in different plastic materials, and they’ll be combined with elastic bands, cords or other fasteners, along with easily washable and readily available cloth covers, to make complete masks. The plastic frame creates a seal around the wearer’s mouth and nose.
The face shields are a more complicated product, also developed in concert with the U.S. Naval Hospital on Okinawa. Garcia designed the face shield frames, with hospital public health officials providing quality assurance.
“We start with a number of different prototypes,” he explained, demonstrating a number of designs for which public health experts had directed alterations. “We look at all the ideas, and each prototype goes through the [quality assurance] process.”
The final design, he said, is deliberately simple, but effective: an arc-shaped piece of plastic with a series of pegs and hooks along the outside edge.
“We send the frames to the hospital,” Garcia said, demonstrating the process of making a face shield with the frames using a plastic sheet protector. “They’ll clean them and use a plastic similar to the overhead transparencies they use in schools, with holes punched in them to fit over the knobs on the front.”
MALS 36 will be producing the face shield frames going forward, as part of the 3rd MEF’s overall effort, with other elements producing mask frames at a similar rate beyond the 1,000 already produced.
Any part these Marines print for an aircraft goes through reviews by engineers and experts, Garcia said, ensuring that they fit the tolerances needed and can stand up to the conditions. “Once that’s done, it’s available to every Marine and sailor who can print,” he added, allowing the services to rapidly disseminate the designs that make the cut.
This division of labor, with different units producing parts and medical personnel taking the mass-produced frames for masks and face shields and overseeing the distribution, allows the MALS 36 team to focus on rapid and sustained production, Garcia said, noting that 3D printing has a longer lead time initially than simply ordering parts that are in-stock. But once the initial design is finished, he said, it allows for faster, cheaper, and more responsive delivery of parts. It also allows entirely new items to be created from scratch in remote conditions.
Around the clock, Burnham and Garcia oversee the process of production. Maintaining their distance from each other in both time and space, the two Marines work in shifts, with Garcia laboring to keep the morning’s mask and face shield production going and Burnham arriving after Garcia has departed to remove the finished products from their print beds and begin the process yet again.
Despite the long hours, Burnham emphasized that 3D printing is not necessarily labor-intensive once production has begun. “We print them in stacks,” he said against the backdrop of another set of mask frames being printed. “Most of the time, if there’s a mistake, it’s in the first layer, so we can tell right away if we need to stop the machine and reposition.”
From there, the frames can be left alone, the workspace growing noticeably hot as a dozen nozzles spread heated plastic out in an exacting pattern. After 11 hours, the frames are ready to remove from the printer and separate into individual items — and at two to four stacks of 10 mask frames each per machine, this adds up quickly, allowing any similarly appointed workspace to create more than 800 mask frames per day.
This output can be kept up 24/7, Burnham said. The machine’s print head moves from side to side, while the print bed itself, the large plate upon which the object is printed, moves forward and back. Each layer of the object is painstakingly assembled by the minute, programmed motions of the print head, feeding a heated stream of molten plastic precisely into place. The smaller machines print more slowly, but use a smaller filament, allowing for finer detail to be captured.
The entryway to the workspace Garcia and Burnham use is decorated by evidence of this fine detail, with everything from rocket parts and ornate, twisting test pieces to minutely detailed decorations arrayed on tables in 3D printed wood, metal, and plastic. Even the fixtures within the workspace are 3D printed, with the handles suspending first aid kits and most plastic parts of the 3D printers themselves bearing the fine striations that mark a 3D-printed product.
“With 3D printing,” Garcia said, “you’re really limited only by your imagination.” (Source: US DoD)
09 Apr 20. Ex-U.S. Navy secretary’s Guam trip to ridicule commander cost taxpayers $243,000 – officials. Former acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s controversial trip to Guam over the weekend where he ridiculed the commander of a coronavirus-stricken U.S. aircraft carrier cost taxpayers at least $243,000, officials said on Wednesday.
Modly resigned on Tuesday after mounting criticism for firing and ridiculing Captain Brett Crozier of the Theodore Roosevelt who pleaded for help to contain a coronavirus outbreak onboard.
Modly quit only after mounting pressure from Congress and a backlash from the crew, and followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s own suggestion on Monday that he might get involved in the matter.
Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Modly flew for about 35 hours on a C-37B, the military version of a Gulfstream jet.
The officials said that based on the flying time, the cost was $243,151.65.
Crozier, whom Modly relieved of command last week, favored more dramatic steps to safeguard his sailors from the spread of the coronavirus in a four-page letter that leaked to the public last week. When Modly fired him over the leak, his crew hailed Crozier as a hero and gave him a rousing sendoff captured on video, apparently upsetting Modly and leading the Navy’s top civilian to fly to Guam to castigate the captain in a speech to the crew on Monday.
Modly questioned Crozier’s character, saying at one point he was either “stupid” or “naive.” After audio of his speech leaked, including expletives, Modly initially stood by his remarks. But he later apologized at U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s request.
So far, 286 personnel onboard the carrier have tested positive for the coronavirus. (Source: Reuters)
08 Apr 20. DOD Partners With U.S. Small Business Administration to Support Defense Small Businesses. Today, at 3 p.m. the Department of Defense’s Office of Small of Business Programs (OSBP) will join with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to host a webinar for industry partners to provide advice and give defense companies an opportunity to ask detailed questions to best address their needs.
This webinar is another example of how the Department continues to partner with defense industry associations and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide support to Defense Industrial Base small businesses being impacted by COVID-19.
The Director of the Office of Small of Business Programs (OSBP), Ms. Amy Young Murray, has led two industry calls focused on small business with representatives from the Military Services, Defense stakeholders and defense industry associations to help engage and listen to issues from the associations’ 3 million company members.
The U.S. Small Business Administration participated in the last OSBP call to provide important status updates on COVID-19 resources and programs, including the newly implemented Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce on payroll employed during the national emergency.
“The Paycheck Protection Program represents an important day for small business, as it is a critical step forward and will help keep the Defense Industrial Base strong,” said Ms. Murray. “The Department is committed to working with the Small Business Administration and our partnership has never been stronger as we continue to fight for small businesses in the face of COVID-19.”
Many small businesses within the Defense Industrial base (DIB) have voiced concerns regarding cash flow. In addition to the PPP, the SBA has four programs available to assist during the pandemic, including: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance, SBA Express Bridge Loans, and SBA Debt Relief. (Source: US DoD)
07 Apr 20. How past investments positioned DARPA to take on coronavirus. Three years ago, scientists at the Pentagon’s future-leaning research branch started work on a program aimed at preventing pandemics.
Now, as scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are halfway through their projected timeline, a pandemic has swept across the globe, with the most reported cases of COVID-19 coming from the United States.
In response, the military organization that typically focuses on projects to address future threats at least five to 10 years off finds itself sprinting to develop diagnostic tools and treatment for the new coronavirus pandemic, and using technology it’s invested in over the last decade.
For example, in the next two weeks, one DARPA program hopes to have developed a test that can detect if a patient is infected with coronavirus and can observe changes in human cells to identify if a patient is infected.
“You live your life thinking this could happen, but when it does happen it’s a bit surreal,” said Amy Jenkins, a program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. “Most of us, we haven’t had a chance to really breathe and really think about what’s happening right now because we’ve been trying to prepare for this. But it’s all a bit surreal that it’s actually happening now.”
The early days
COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, came to DARPA’s attention when the epicenter was limited to Wuhan, China.
“This outbreak was very much on our radar in December when we were just getting initial reports from China that there was a novel pneumonia unrelated to influenza occurring,” Jenkins said in an interview with C4ISRNET. “We made the decision as a program to start investigating this once we had the first U.S. case.”
That initial U.S. case was confirmed Jan. 21, but the first sample arrived at DARPA’s partner labs during the first week of March.
In the meantime, however, Jenkins’ office worked with DARPA’s partner labs so scientists could begin testing when the first sample arrived. They also researched the virus’ genetic sequence and how it related to SARS, another respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that killed about 800 people from 2002-2004. DARPA’s partner labs are AbCellera Biologics, AstraZeneca, Vanderbilt and Duke.
“It wasn’t a necessary pause,” Jenkins said. “If we had had samples the last week of January, we could’ve started immediately.”
Jenkins, along with Brad Ringeisen, office director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, said the biggest challenge the agency has encountered is access to samples.
“It’s frustrating to know that we have the tools and the technology,” Ringeisen said. “But those tools and technology do us no good until we get the samples.”
He added that the office has worked with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Defense Department, and several other entities to get the samples it needs for rapid research.
Past investment, present payoffs
Since the early 2010s, DARPA has invested in a new type of vaccine technology — nucleic acid vaccines — which use the human body as its “bioreactor” to create the antibodies needed for immunity. DARPA funded this type of vaccine because traditional vaccine manufacturing is cumbersome, Jenkins said, and can take up to 18 months.
DARPA’s efforts on new mRNA vaccines have perhaps led to the best chance of effective immunization against COVID-19. This is in part thanks to a $25m grant it awarded in 2013 to biotech company Moderna to manufacture mRNA vaccines to protect against a “wide range of known and unknown emerging infectious diseases and engineered biological threats.”
Now, a Moderna mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 is undergoing a clinical trial with the NIH. DARPA leaders are confident it will be deemed safe “because of some of our past investments that we’ve done on similar products for different diseases,” Ringeisen said.
Because there’s no RNA immunization for COVID-19 approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Jenkins said that DARPA has also realigned its efforts to work on traditional vaccine manufacturing.
“It’s not the role DARPA has been investing in, but it is the most applicable to this outbreak,” Jenkins said.
In 2018, DARPA signed the first contracts for the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program, a project that aims to create a “medical countermeasure” for a pandemic disease within 60 days of that pathogen’s identification using the mRNA vaccine technology.
The platform relies on ongoing research into rapid antibody-discovery technology that must be linked with tech able to quickly manufacture those antibodies. The rapid antibody-discovery technologies are “hardened off,” Jenkins said, meaning that their focus is now on manufacturing the antibodies, a process that can be done in the human body, as described earlier.
“Given this outbreak, what we are doing now is actually utilizing those rapid discovery platforms to find … antibodies that target the SARS-2 coronavirus,” Jenkins said.
The P3 program is expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023, Jenkins said.
DARPA’s coronavirus effort also includes creating a rapid detection and diagnostic platform through its Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation, or ECHO program. According to Ringeisen, DARPA hypothesized years ago that infectious diseases left “epigenetic marks” on human cells, or chemical changes in cells that indicate exposure to toxins, much like epigenetic marks left in smokers. In this test, medical professionals wouldn’t be looking for the virus, but rather for the marks indicating the host’s response to the virus.
“These marks are most likely being made almost immediately after the body is exposed to the virus,” Ringeisen said. In addition, they could show up well before the virus would be evident in a nasal swab.
In this case, blood would be drawn and then scientists could look for the marks. DARPA was able to focus the ECHO program to respond to the new coronavirus, Ringeisen said.
Ringeisen told C4ISRNET that he thought that test could be a “powerful tool,” especially as “we talk about going back to the workforce and who might be more vulnerable or less vulnerable to being exposed to the disease.” He hopes this program will produce the epigenetic signature in the next 10-12 days.
Ringeisen said DARPA is targeting August 2020 as its goal for getting the FDA’s approval of that test. The test would be an important service in case there’s a second wave of the virus in the fall this year.
Another diagnostic test, called Detect It with Gene Editing Technologies, which used computers and algorithms to identify genetic codes, was able to uncover specific genetic codes associated with the new coronavirus. An FDA-approved version of that test could also improve testing for the virus. Ringeisen said that DARPA was able to fast-track that project as well, and the agency is aiming for FDA approval in August.
The investments in these programs over the last decades has accelerated DARPA’s near-term work on the current pandemic.
“By having these projects already going, it’s very, very easy for us to sort of plug in pathogen ‘X’ into these projects,” Ringeisen said.
But to do more research, scientists across the United States are urging people who have recovered from the virus to donate blood so more samples become available.
“As a U.S. government, we have a dearth of samples,” Jenkins said. “We do not have all of the samples we need, but it is not as extreme as a bottleneck at this point.”
Update: This story has been updated with clarification from a DARPA spokesperson that the first test samples arrived at DARPA’s P3 partner labs, not directly to DARPA. The spokesperson also clarified that DARPA’s partner labs prepared their labs for the arrival of the samples, not DARPA, which doesn’t have labs. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
06 Apr 20. With the commercial aviation industry in a nosedive, the Defense Department offers airlines a lifeline. As the coronavirus pandemic roils the commercial airline industry, U.S. Transportation Command is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a program where U.S. airlines like United and Delta can fly transport missions on behalf of the Defense Department in an emergency.
The White House has not officially activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, or CRAF, to support of COVID-19 prevention operations. However, as travel restrictions force airlines to cancel flights and make cuts to their aircraft fleets, the military is looking for opportunities where it can offload work to its CRAF partners in the hopes of softening the financial blow, said Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, who leads TRANSCOM.
“On a cargo side, the civil aviation fleet is going pretty strong. On a passenger side, it has dropped off significantly,” Lyons told reporters Tuesday.
“We’re talking to [commercial airline companies] regularly. I am concerned, to some degree, about impacts on the passenger segment of the aviation industry, so any opportunity we have to push workload in their direction, we’re doing that.”
According to the Air Force, 25 airlines and a total 433 aircraft are involved in the CRAF program as of April 2019 — though those numbers often change on a monthly basis, the service notes.
So far, no commercial airline companies have notified the Defense Department that they will not be able to meet their contractual commitments for the CRAF program, said Air Mobility Command spokeswoman Capt. Nicole Ferrara.
But while the churn of the commercial airline industry hasn’t immediately resulted in a reduction of assets for the CRAF program, it remains to be seen whether there could be long term impact, especially as companies whittle down the size of their fleets and number of types of aircraft.
For instance, Delta Airlines in March announced it would speed up the retirements of its McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft, as well as some older Boeing 767s.
Meanwhile, American Airlines announced it would accelerate the retirements of a number of aircraft fleets. Instead of retiring in 2025, its Boeing 757s will be phased out by mid-2021, while its Boeing 767s will leave the fleet this May instead of next year. The airline will also phase out all 20 of its Embraer E190s and all nine of its A330-300s over the next year.
To help companies build up revenue, the U.S. government issued contract awards to a number of commercial airlines to perform “repatriation flights” that transport American citizens and U.S. permanent residents, who are stranded in foreign countries, back to U.S. soil. On March 27, TRANSCOM was tapped to assist the Department of State Repatriation Task Force by managing contracts with the U.S. airline industry for commercial aircraft used to return Americans to the United States.
So far, TRANSCOM has been responsible for scheduling commercial flights for about 1,200 people since the command took over contracting efforts, Dave Dunn, a spokesman for the command, told Defense News last week.
During the first mission, planned for April 4, National Airlines transported U.S. citizens and permanent residents from Nigeria to Washington. TRANSCOM has also awarded contracts to Delta Air Lines and Omni Air for repatriation missions, with total value of $2.5m across all three vendors.
There have still been some limited challenges to scheduling repatriation flights on commercial airlines, noted Dunn. For instance, travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak have made it difficult to route stopovers for crew rest and fuel, as many normal locations are not available.
However, Lyons said he expects the number of repatriation flights performed by commercial vendors to grow “significantly.”
“There will still be small numbers that move on a space available basis [via military aircraft] but the main effort is through our Civil Reserve Aviation Fleet partners that we use on a day-to-day basis,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
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