COVID-19 has 'really expensed' Army aviation supply chain, most fragile suppliers

By Jaspreet Gill / October 20, 2020 at 2:55 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the Army who its "most fragile" aviation suppliers are and the potential outcomes of being unable to sustain and produce new aircraft, an official from the service's aviation office said today.

The service earlier this year started looking at suppliers who had "significant exposure to commercial industry" -- namely engine suppliers, Pat Mason, deputy program executive officer for Army aviation, said today at an Aviation Week event.

"All of the engines that we buy are shared with firms that have large commercial exposure and shared supply chains," he said. "We think that's a great advantage, because we're able to leverage the innovations going on within the commercial marketplace, but we also understood that as soon as COVID hit and we saw a precipitous decline in both airline miles as well as the [maintenance, repair and overhaul] functions that were going on, that there were potential liquidity issues with some of the small, mom-and-pop suppliers."

The service worked with its original equipment manufacturers and primes to ensure advance payments that would go to those who were most in need, including rotorcraft and vertical lift suppliers.

"But we also understood that underneath them were a number of sub-tier suppliers, and those were the ones that we were most concerned about," Mason said. "So, we actually had daily COVID status meetings across the PEO. We worked very closely with the Defense Contract Management Agency to understand exactly what position was going on across the country in the globe."

The service also talked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense about Defense Production Act Title III-type appropriations and with the companies themselves to see what the Army could do to assist them, he added.

"Now, I think as we look to the future, we'll see . . . recovery and what I'm focused on is how long is that recovery going to take, what happens to some of the lower-tier suppliers as cash will continue to be tight during that period, and what we need to do specifically for some of our more fragile suppliers that are out there," Mason said.