But COVID-19 has changed the way America gets work done. We’ve moved into a public health pandemic and economic tailspin. Millions of American workers have started to work from home or are simply out of work. Products that we expected to be readily available, are no longer there.
In early December, IGH hired Program Manager (PM), Crandell "Mack" McDonald, to lead our Defense Health Agency team. DHA is the Congressional-required agency that brings Army, Navy and Air Force health care under one roof. It’s an ongoing consolidation to provide better and more efficient care to the 9.5 million military health care beneficiaries.
Specifically, IGH’s contract is to help the 36 medical facilities in the National Capital Region – like Walter Reed Medical Center and the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital - consolidate their buying processes. Our goal is to make acquisition more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.
Not long after we hired Mack, COVID-19 came on the horizon. Mack applied his decades of service in the federal workforce on acquisition to assessing what our team would need to look like if COVID-19 became a reality on American shores. He sought hires for the team who could be agile and bring public health experience to our partners at DHA.
One team member is a veteran, who was a Navy medic. Another, Dr. Yvette Lawrence-Hood, holds a doctorate in public health and brings 20 years of public health experience to the team. The team consists of people who dually understand federal buying processes and who also recognize their own critical role in serving our nation by addressing this public health crisis.
As COVID-19 was spreading out of China to countries like Italy and Iran, our team was fully engaged on virus response. They looked at CDC, NIH and VA efforts. They looked at Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) order scheduling. They spent many hours over multiple team meetings strategizing to ensure acquisition continued for DHA, despite COVID-19’s predicted obstacles.
By mid-March the entire IGH organization was working remotely in order to keep our staff and their families safe. Once tasked with finding thousands of sets of PPE daily, they could already see a very different reality for federal buying.
I’m proud to say our team has been a little gritty in their response. A typical day for our DHA team means long hours of Microsoft Teams video conferences and hundreds of calls to American companies in every state. We are scouring the country for supply sources. Our team is thinking outside the box to find solutions. And as they look for solutions, they are finding American innovators thinking outside the box too.
Battelle Memorial Institute is a 90-year-old nonprofit research facility. One of its engineers was talking to his wife, a doctor, about the coming N95 mask shortage. This engineer helped Battelle dust off an old study showing how masks could be cleaned and reused. By April 13, the cleaning technology was proven so effective that the Pentagon announced a $415 million contract for 60 cleaning systems.
Many apparel producers have shifted to making cloth masks in their American factories. American Giant, the 11-brand coalition that includes Hanes and Fruit of the Loom, has done just that. By retooling, they are meeting critical needs and keeping Americans employed.
Our calls have identified numerous stories similar to the above. We’ve been in touch with a towel maker in the South and a military apparel company in the Northeast who are doling out face masks. We’ve found suppliers who can get the military masks in green and tan, not tie-dye or blaze orange.
Small businesses have risen to the occasion to help America through COVID-19. This isn’t surprising given this can-do spirit has always been part of the fabric of America.
We are coming to the table with solutions – albeit creative ones – to help our military medical facilities reach their mission. We don’t believe any job is too small or too complicated when our federal partners ask for something.
The Team at IGH is proud to be serving DHA, our military, our veterans and their families.
Michael V. Sanders, Interactive Government Holdings, Chief Executive Officer