- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2020

Pentagon officials anticipate a three-month delay across several of its big-ticket projects as a result of the manufacturing closures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Ellen Lord, the Defense Department’s acquisitions chief, told reporters the impact is hitting both the largest defense contractors and smaller vendors.

“We continue to carefully and methodically track the state of the defense industrial base,” she said.

She said 106 major companies and 427 vendor-based operations had to shut down. Of the larger defense contractors, 68 eventually reopened while employees at 147 of the vendors have gone back to work.

The slowdown brought on by COVID-19 is being keenly felt in the shipbuilding and small space launch industries. But, “aviation is actually the most highly impacted sector we have right now,” Undersecretary Lord said.

She declined to identify any particular defense projects that have been slowed down. But she said it affects both domestic and international companies.

“We are seeing impacts on the industrial base by several pockets of closure internationally - particularly Mexico - where we have a group of companies that are impacting many of our major,” projects, Undersecretary Lord said.

She has reached out to both Christopher Landau, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard, for assistance getting outsourced defense suppliers reopened.

“These companies are especially important for our U.S. airframe production,” Undersecretary Lord said.

She said Pentagon officials have been quick to respond to defense industry concerns. The Defense Contracting Management Agency modified 1,500 contracts to help cash-strapped companies file invoices at a higher progress payment rate. That should provide $3 billion in increased cash flow to the defense industry, she said.

“I commend Lockheed Martin and Boeing for both publicly committing to ensure this cash flow goes quickly down the supply chain to small businesses who need it most,” Undersecretary Lord said. “We are hoping for similar public announcements from other major” prime contractors.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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