The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded multinational conglomerate corporation 3M a $126 million contract to increase production to 26 million N95 masks per month, starting from October 2020.
The Department’s Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) spearheaded the new contract with 3M, DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a press release on May 6. Funding will be provided through the bipartisan $2 trillion Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Bill (CARES Act) signed into law by President Donald Trump in March.
“This increased production/industrial capacity will continue to ensure a sustainable supply chain of N95 respirators and resupply the Strategic National Stockpile in response to the increased national demand caused by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the spokesman said.
Andrews added that the department remains “closely partnered with FEMA and HHS, providing almost $800M in lifesaving supplies and equipment to service members and federal agencies in the nation’s whole-of-government approach to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Under the new contract, 3M will increase production of N95 respirators to at least 312 million units within the next 12 months. The company said it will expand its factory in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and start initial production in Wisconsin to meet demand.
According to the Department of Defense, 3M has already placed orders for raw material and initiated two new N95 manufacturing lines.
The latest contract comes after Trump last month invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) in relation to 3M, saying he was not happy with the amount of N95 masks the company was delivering to U.S. healthcare workers on the frontlines of fighting the CCP virus.
The DPA order on April 3 authorized acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to “use any and all authority” to acquire as many respirators from the company or its affiliates as was deemed “appropriate.”
Later that day, Trump wrote on Twitter saying, “We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their masks,” in an apparent reference to reports that the manufacturing giant had been exporting many of its masks to other countries instead of reserving them for domestic use.
But 3M said in a statement at the time that it had gone “above and beyond to manufacture as many N95 respirators as possible for the U.S. market,” and “have been working closely with the administration to do exactly that.” It added that ceasing the export of respirators to Canadian and Latin American markets could have “significant humanitarian implications.”
Trump later said that the “3M saga ends very happily” and that he was “very proud to be dealing with 3M,” after reaching an agreement with the manufacturing giant to bring more than 55.5 million N95 respirators to the United States a month to support healthcare workers.
The DOD announced on April 11 that it would spend $133 million in contracts to increase U.S. domestic N95 mask production by over 39 million over the next 90 days. 3M received $76 million of that contract, while global healthcare logistics company Owens & Minor received $29 million and multinational conglomerate Honeywell received $27.4 million.