The Pentagon on Friday called on defense contractors in certain specialties to continue their work amid the coronavirus outbreak following calls from companies for greater clarity for their workers.
“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,” Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said in a memo to defense industry obtained by POLITICO.
The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday designated 16 industries, including defense, as “critical” and whose workers should remain on the job during the outbreak.
Lord said essential workers in the defense industrial base include, though aren’t limited to, engineers, manufacturing workers, security personnel, weapons systems mechanics and maintainers, and medical supply and pharmaceutical suppliers.
Lord also called on workers to follow federal, state and local guidance for limiting the spread of coronavirus.
“If your contract or subcontract supports the development, production, testing, fielding, or sustainment of our weapon systems/software systems, or the infrastructure to support those activities, [you] are considered Essential Critical Infrastructure,” Lord said. “If your efforts support manning, training, equipping, deploying, or supporting our military forces, your work is considered Essential Critical Infrastructure.”
Workers who are “providing office supplies, recreation support, or lawn care” are not considered essential, Lord added.
“We will continue to assess the conditions as the COVID-19 situation evolves,” she wrote.
POLITICO first reported on Tuesday that the Pentagon has issued no agency-wide guidance for contractors amid the coronavirus outbreak, instead delegating decision-making authority to individual contracting officers.
Defense industry groups had complained of the lack of guidance, requesting clarity from the Pentagon on a host of issues, including travel, telework and work stoppage.
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