Pentagon orders thousands of face masks for DOD personnel

Army Maj. Monique Jeanbaptiste, with the 9th Hospital Center, removes her protective mask at the Javits New York Medical Station's doffing station, April 17, 2020.


By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 20, 2020

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has ordered thousands of face coverings for Defense Department personnel to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, a top Pentagon official announced Monday.

The face coverings, made of cloth, will be provided to the entire Defense Department workforce of about 3 million people, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during a news conference at the Pentagon.

The order follows a Defense Department directive April 6 for personnel to use cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus if they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or in their places of work.

The deliveries for the face coverings will start this week, with 135,000 face coverings expected to be delivered by the end of the month, and another 580,000 by the end of May, Lord said. The coverings will be distributed through the military services and departments to personnel in nonmedical positions, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Defense Logistics Agency has also provided a variety of medical and personal protective equipment to the military services, combatant commands, and federal agencies, Lord said. The list includes more than 1.8 million N95 respirator masks, 3.2 million nonmedical and surgical masks, and 8,000 ventilators.

Contracts with three companies have also been finalized to increase mask production in the United States, which are in critical need at hospitals combating the coronavirus pandemic. The first project under Title III of the Defense Production Act, which is being used to increase production of needed medical supplies, is for more than 39 million N95 masks in the next 90 days at a cost of $133 million, Lord said.

“The increased production will ensure the U.S. government gets dedicated long-term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation,” she said.

Twitter: @caitlinmkenney