Authored by Alexander Canizares, Paul Korol, and Richard Oehler

The Department of Defense (DoD) has identified a way to speed the procurement of supplies and services to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19): Designate them as commercial items under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

On March 30, 2020, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) issued a class Commercial Item Determination (CID) designating the following supplies and services as meeting the definition of “commercial item” to the extent they are procured in response to COVID-19:

  • Efforts associated with R&D or procurement of FDA-approved vaccines and antiviral medications that inoculate against or treat COVID-19. These are deemed “commercial” because they are being “developed by private institutions for the use and procurement by private entities (Hospitals).”
  • Efforts associated with establishing and setting up temporary booths, testing stations, or hospitals. This includes procurement of temporary tents or booths, and the services associated with manning such stations, but does not include procurement of real property.
  • Emergency medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators, and services for COVID-19 relief efforts.
  • Facility-related services, such as efforts to “mothball” a building for long-term or permanent closure, or deep cleaning and remediation services.

Normally, the Defense FAR Supplement (DFARS) requires DoD contracting officers to make a commercial item determination when using FAR Part 12 commercial item procedures to spend more than $1 million. By making this determination in advance for the listed supplies and services, the CID allows DoD agencies to use FAR Part 12’s streamlined procedures to quickly make such high-dollar-value purchases.

The DCMA plans to add commercial items to the CID as appropriate.

The CID follows two other initiatives to encourage Commercial Item procurements to fight the COVID-19 crisis:

  • On March 20, 2020, OMB issued guidance that, among other things, encourages agencies to use simplified acquisition procedures to acquire commercial items up to $13 million, which is authorized by FAR Part 18, during national emergencies.
  • On March 24, 2020, GSA issued guidance that outlines programs available to state and local entities under GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule, including Disaster Purchasing, Public Health Emergency Purchasing, Cooperating Purchasing, and the 1112 Program (which allows state and local governments to purchase from federal sources of supply in support of counter-drug, homeland security, or emergency response activities).