COVID at-home test kits were made available to Americans through an on-line ordering system, COVIDTests.gov, launched in January 2022. The test kits used to supply this ordering system were made possible by an Army Contracting Command team from the Joint COVID Response Division (JCRD). This JCRD team had a short timeframe to procure the needed test kits to help mitigate COVID spread.
The JCRD is a virtual contracting task force comprised of members from five contracting centers to include ACC-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; ACC-Detroit, Michigan; ACC-New Jersey; ACC-Orlando, Florida; and ACC-Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The JCRD was stood up in March 2021 and consolidated ACC’s COVID response under a single division that supports the COVID acquisition efforts of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense, in conjunction with Health and Human Services (HHS).
The test kit team was established on Dec 21, 2021, following a message from the White House when President Joe Biden announced that the government planned to buy a half-billion at-home test kits and mail them to people who want them. The date set for launching the test kit ordering site was Jan. 19, 2022, giving this team just one month to get the test kits needed. Also causing concern during this timeframe was the COVID case surge and the rapidly spreading omicron variant.
“This team answered the nation’s call and did incredible work by expeditiously procuring the needed COVID test kits,” said Mr. Kenyata L. Wesley, ACC-APG’s executive director. “They understood the importance of this mission for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and did their part to provide a convenient at-home method to get quick test results.”
According to JCRD Chief John Conlin (ACC-APG), “when the president made the announcement about the ordering system for free at-home test kits, there weren’t any contracts in place and there wasn’t a supply chain or distribution network established to connect the test kit manufacturers to the U.S. Postal System. The team was faced with a massive undertaking.”
The team jumped in and began laying out an acquisition process that involved multiple concurrent contract awards. Team members put their holiday plans on hold to work this test kit challenge.
“First, we wanted to identify who currently had test kits available to meet the requirement,” stated Brendon Courtade, chief for JCRD’s Enablers Branch. “On Dec. 23, we released a market research request which was due the next day. We received more than 65 responses from manufacturers and distributors.”
After taking one day off for the holiday, the team went right back to work. According to Courtade, “we procured what we could from U.S. manufacturers to meet the timeline, then we reached out to vetted overseas companies to obtain kits available on the market.”
The members of this team were also working various other contracting actions simultaneously, while still balancing oversight and audit requirements. On Dec. 30, 2021, HHS stood up an operations cell which included members from ACC, JPEO-CBRND, Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, and the U.S. Postal Service.
“Each organization did their part to develop a logistics plan for getting the test kits from the contractors to the American public,” Courtade pointed out. “We awarded the first contracts on Jan. 7, just 16 days after we received the requirement. The first five contracts were awarded to procure kits with immediate delivery, within 14 days, and another four awards were made by the end of January. This brought the number of test kits on order to 556 million and the first deliveries were made on Jan. 14.”
Within three days of these deliveries, the ordering website was opened to the public. Also, around this timeframe the president made another announcement directing the procurement of an additional 500 million test kits for distribution to the American people, bringing the total needed to one billion.
“The team did it once and we knew we could do it again,” Courtade confidently said referring to the increased number of test kits needed. “They did a stellar job and worked long hours to get the job done. Never in my career did I have to move this quickly to meet an urgent requirement!”
Courtade concluded by saying, “It’s a great feeling of pride and accomplishment to help our nation in need. We are just one piece of the puzzle in the fight against COVID, with JCRD providing various lines of effort such as vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and enablers.”
Below are the team members who supported the test kit procurements:
Brendon Courtade (ACC-DTA), Branch Chief/Contracting Officer for Enablers Branch C
Christopher Johnston (ACC-DTA, Red River Army Depot), Contracting Officer
Keith McPherson (ACC-RSA), Contracting Officer/Branch Chief
Justin Nabity (ACC-NJ), Contracting Officer
Laurel Miller (ACC-DTA), Contract Specialist
Antione Denson (ACC-RSA), Contract Specialist
Steve Honda (ACC-ORL), Contract Specialist
David Srinivasan (ACC-ORL), Contract Specialist