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Pentagon eyes 'billions' for defense firms in next coronavirus aid bill

Pentagon eyes 'billions' for defense firms in next coronavirus aid bill
© Greg Nash

The Pentagon will ask for billions of dollars in the next version of a stimulus package to help defense contractors hit by closures or other effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said Monday.

“We’re talking billions and billions on that one,” Ellen Lord, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, said at a Pentagon briefing.

Lord declined to get into more specifics on the number, saying it has yet to be worked out with the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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Under the last coronavirus relief bill, known as the CARES Act, the Pentagon can reimburse contractors for delays and other added costs due to the pandemic. The new billions would be used to pay for that authority.

Major weapons programs are expected to be delayed by about three months due to the coronavirus crisis, Lord said.

The main contractors being hit are those in aviation and shipbuilders, said Lord, who also expressed concern about small space launch companies.

Out of 10,509 primary Pentagon contractors, 106 are closed and 68 companies have closed and then reopened, she said.

Of 11,413 subcontractors, 427 are closed, with 147 having closed and reopened, she added.

Lord said there “isn’t a particular program” that might be slowed, but said a slowdown could hit major programs in general.

“We are just now looking at key milestones that might be impacted,” Lord said. “We believe there will be a three-month impact that we can see right now. So we’re looking at schedule delays and inefficiencies and so forth.”