It won’t be back to business as usual for intelligence community and national security workers. And that means government contractors need more time to take advantage of contingency funds, urges a recent letter signed by a group of trade groups and industry associations, including the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Professional Services Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
“Contractors for intelligence agencies cannot simply take classified work home with them and telecommute during the pandemic,” said Larry Hanauer, INSA’s vice president for policy. “Section 3610 has enabled national security contractors to keep cleared employees ready to return to work rather than lay them off, which would cost tens of thousands of jobs and undermine national security. But the pandemic will continue past September 30, which means the authorities to continue supporting cleared industry are needed past that date as well.”
The CARES Act allowed government contractors to invoice for costs related to COVID-19. The provisions were designed to ensure the stability of the defense industrial base, which faced a number of supply chain challenges related to factory closures and weapons systems delays, as well as adjusting to remote work in a community where telework has typically been a limited option. The reimbursement window of Section 3610 of the CARES Act ends Sept. 30. Many contractors report they have only recently begun applying for reimbursements related to the coronavirus. Unless Congress extends or creates new provisions in its next stimulus package, any closures to COVID-19 costs will come out of company bottom lines.
It’s Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better
The continuity of operations within the IC and defense industrial base has been a bright spot in the country’s response to a global pandemic. The IC has responded to increased threats, including foreign intelligence efforts related to coronavirus vaccine research. And while national security workers are largely eager to get back into their offices, challenges aren’t just related to whether offices are reopening, with working parents now figuring out how to juggle full-time jobs with full-time distance learning schedules. Government contracting companies are dealing with a host of logistics and scheduling issues that are unlikely to roll away when Sept. 30 hits.
The Next Act
Republicans and Democrats are still struggling to come to an agreement on what the next stage of stimulus spending will look like. Both sides are urging for a compromise prior to the August recess. Yesterday Senate Republicans unveiled the HEALS Act, which includes $11 billion in funding for defense contractors and a number of provisions for businesses looking to reopen and react to COVID-19. The Senate bill comes in response to the House’s HEROES Act, which was announced in May, and included $3 trillion in coronavirus related stimulus funding. Whatever legislation is passed is likely to be a compromise of both bills, and if industry associations have their way, will include provisions to specifically protect the defense industrial base and small contractors.