April 2 (UPI) -- A top Navy official said this week the branch will award some contracts earlier than planned in an effort to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the defense industry.
James Geurts, the Navy's Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, told reporters the Navy is planning on awarding contracts for a variety of initiatives that have already been authorized and appropriated by Congress -- such as a $1.6 billion deal for Boeing's P-8 aircraft.
Geurts said handing out large contracts now will ensure suppliers get paid quickly and can then pay their smaller suppliers, he said.
"I hear stories of second-, third- and fourth-tier suppliers that were worried about going out of business, worried about how they would keep paying their salaries," Geurts said this week. "Our ability to move and accelerate work into the defense [industrial] base and then have that be pushed out to those suppliers is absolutely critical."
It should also allow companies to create more flexibility should they deal with delays and disruptions and have work to do during a recovery period.
"If I award the job two months early, theoretically that allows me two months of disruption, plus we'll accelerate recovery," Geurts said.
The acceleration doesn't just apply to large contractors, but to small businesses, startups, academia and other organizations that do research and development, he said.
"We cannot let this crisis impede our continued push for ensuring we have the right technology in the hands of our sailors and Marines five or 10 years from now," Geurts said.
On March 20 Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's undersecretary for acquisitions, sent a memo signaling that defense contractors and subcontractors are "critical infrastructure" and should continue working despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to stay-at-home orders, business closures and shifts to remote work for public and private employers across the country.