JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The Air Force Installation Contracting Center is overseeing the execution of billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief, with a recent contract award providing critical materials used in the production of rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test kits.
This contract award enables the production of more than 83 million test kits a month, including those now available to the American public.
“The awards and contract vehicles our team has executed ensure that DOD is postured expeditiously to support the Department of Health and Human Services and the administration’s efforts to defeat this disease and safeguard our nation from future pandemics,” said Brig. Gen. Alice Trevino, AFICC commander and director of the Department of the Air Force Acquisition COVID-19 Taskforce, or DAF ACT.
AFICC, a primary subordinate unit of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, currently leads interagency assisted acquisition support efforts for HHS COVID-19 relief on behalf of the Department of Defense, DAF and Air Force Materiel Command.
The DAF ACT, established in March 2020, focuses on supporting the national COVID-19 response through a decentralized framework of acquisition teams operating virtually throughout the United States.
The DAF ACT fully transitioned to AFMC and AFICC in October 2021, after being led by the deputy assistant secretary for contracting, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Technology and Logistics.
The current DAF ACT team awarded a $136.7 million contract in late December 2021, establishing domestic production capacity for the critical materials used in rapid point-of-care COVID test kits. The team also issued a Commercial Solutions Opening, a competitive program authorized by the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act that allows acquisition teams to rapidly obtain innovative commercial solutions to produce more N95 respirators, medical-grade gloves and medical-grade gowns.
The critical materials production increase, provided by that contract, was one part of the process that now allows the American public to order free COVID-19 tests online. The Department of the Army and Defense Logistics Agency acquisition teams awarded the contract to purchase the complete tests.
“The DAF ACT team is integral to national security and the White House’s plan to combat the coronavirus outbreak,” Trevino said. “We directly support the DOD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition and HHS through domestic industrial base expansion, or IBX, and by building production capacity for vital medical items needed to respond to the national crisis.”
AFICC is estimated to guide and administer the execution of up to $6 billion in contract awards in the next two years. As part of this effort, AFICC is also expected to play a significant role in continuing to expand domestic industrial production capacity for pharmaceuticals, medical end products, testing and diagnostics capabilities, medical-based raw materials, and other personal protective equipment necessary to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.
During fiscal year 2021, the DAF ACT executed 29 contracts and obligated $1.33 billion in support of HHS requirements. The effort included $636 million to 13 companies to expand capacity and help companies develop PPE; $69.3 million to develop domestic production capability for active pharmaceutical ingredients and $627 million to 15 companies to expand COVID-19 test kit capability.
As the DAF ACT Line of Effort 1 director, Dawn Pease is responsible for acquisition strategy development, contract award and administration, and financial and program management support. Line of Effort 1 focuses on creating capacity to expand the nation’s availability of PPE, pharmaceuticals and testing capabilities.
“When COVID-19 hit, the shortfall of medical supplies necessary to respond was immediately apparent,” said Pease, who is the director of contracting for the Air Force Sustainment Center’s operating location at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “In many cases, we were dependent on overseas suppliers for items such as masks, gloves and gowns. With COVID-19 being a global pandemic, these overseas suppliers were no longer able to meet demand outside of their own country. In addition, other necessary items such as COVID-19-specific testing kits had not yet been developed.
“This effort (led by AFICC) leverages innovative acquisition solutions to provide immediate support to HHS and expand the U.S. medical-industrial base for the long term,” Pease said.
The DAF ACT has not slowed down since its test kit contract award and has already awarded another 10 contracts worth approximately $378 million, with another $200 million planned to be awarded in the first half of FY22.
“We inherited a well-oiled machine that was moving very fast, and we continue to move that machine,” said James Lawrence, lead acquisition program manager for AFICC and DAF ACT director of staff. “AFICC’s role, as part of AFMC’s role, is huge. Although we’re pretty much steering the ship on behalf of the Secretary of the Air Force and HHS, it’s an enterprise-wide effort, and we’ve established the structure to ensure the long-term viability of this interagency effort, if needed.”
Trevino attributes AFMC’s six-center construct to readily synchronize acquisition efforts, a “change agent” mindset to accelerate DAF ACT execution and the support of Air Force senior leaders such as AFMC Commander Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr. and Darlene Costello, acting Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“We’re empowered to take advantage quickly of the power of the headquarters, the functional chain and the command chain,” Trevino said. “For the past 22 months, our DAF ACT professionals have made an enormous difference for our nation and are capturing the lessons learned to prepare proactively for future national emergencies.”
Trevino also credits her team in balancing her duties as DAF ACT director and AFICC commander.
“Collectively, we work side-by-side with each other to accomplish the COVID-19 pandemic response mission for our nation, HHS and DOD,” Trevino said. “Everything we have achieved and will aspire to accomplish in 2022 is because of our team’s alignment and because we communicate, trust each other and do it together.”
Editor’s Note: To order the free COVID-19 tests, go to www.covidtests.gov and complete the short questionnaire. There is a limit of four tests per household. According to the website, orders are expected to ship in seven to 12 days from receipt of request.