Ohio lawmakers want better COVID-19 guidance for defense industrial base

By Tony Bertuca / April 1, 2020 at 2:50 PM

Several Ohio lawmakers, led by Rep. Mike Turner (R), have sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting better COVID-19 guidance be provided to the defense industrial base, especially those working at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The lawmakers say they have been contacted by 13 small businesses in Ohio that have research and development contracts with AFRL.

"They have raised concerns about the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and an absence of sufficient guidance on how they may continue to meet their contractual obligations to DOD during this crisis," the lawmakers wrote.

"One of their key concerns," according to the letter, "is the lack of uniform guidance from local leadership and contracting officers on which tasks and personnel are deemed 'mission essential' and the rules on which contractors can continue to work remotely."

The lawmakers want DOD to release "clear, top-down" guidance that would allow contractors to work remotely as much as possible; allow on-site work when required; provide contractors with "maximum flexibility" to meet their contractual obligations; and take action to avoid reductions in force.

Though the lawmakers acknowledge DOD has released some guidance already, they say they’re concerned the message "remains ambiguous and lacks uniformity in application."

"Thus far, the DOD policy of delegating key decision-making authorities to the lowest levels has caused the contractor workforce great concern because of uncertain, and often conflicting, guidance," the letter states. "The defense contractor community needs stability and continuity in this time of crisis and those steps will enable contractors to meet their obligations while protecting their workforce."