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The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed a $126 million contract with 3M on Wednesday for the increased production of 26 million N95 medical-grade masks per month, amid the growing need for the materials during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Defense’s Joint Acquisition Task Force spearheaded the new contract with 3M, according to DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, and is funded through the more than $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed 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,” Andrews said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the Defense Department is closely partnered with FEMA and HHS in providing nearly $800 million 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 “design, procure, and implement necessary production facilities and equipment to expedite existing delivery schedule and increase N95 respirator production by at least 312 million annually within the next twelve months,” Andrews said.
3M is expected to expand its facility in Aberdeen, S.D., and also perform initial production in Wisconsin. According to the Department of Defense, 3M has already placed orders for raw material and initiated two new N95 manufacturing lines.
The new contract comes after President Trump, early on in the pandemic, invoked the Defense Production Act to order 3M to prioritize orders of N95 masks for the federal government’s national stockpile.
3M had come under fire for exporting American-made masks and other protective equipment to Canada and Latin America.