Kilmer Leads Bipartisan Call to Ramp Up Defense Manufacturing Capabilities in Response to Coronavirus

Letter Calls for Clear Guidance and Direction to Military Installations to Address Shortages of PPE and Medical Equipment

Tacoma, WA – Today Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Tom Cole (OK-04), and Cheri Bustos (IL-17) led 52 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), urging them to utilize the full potential of DOD’s manufacturing base to produce much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, and other medical equipment, such as ventilators.

Military installations currently lack clear direction from FEMA, who is the lead agent on this matter, on how they can use their personnel and expertise to ramp up production. Today’s letter calls on FEMA to provide installations with the authority and approval they need to produce and distribute life-saving equipment.

“I’ve heard from folks at military installations in my region who have, on their own initiative, started using the 3D printing and other technologies available at their facilities to produce critical Personal Protective Equipment needed across the country. I’m grateful for these efforts - and want to make sure they have clear authority from DOD that allows them to provide this badly needed material to medical providers and first responders in my community who are out on the frontlines combating this health crisis,” Rep. Kilmer said.

“Medical professionals across the country are in dire need of personal protective equipment as they continue to treat the critically ill and risk their health daily,” Rep. Cole said. “Adding Department of Defense’s manufacturing capabilities as a way to contribute to a whole-of-government effort to defeat COVID-19 just makes sense.”

“Military installations like the Rock Island Arsenal possess top-notch manufacturing capabilities that are poised to play a significant role in our ability to respond to COVID-19,” Rep. Bustos said. “For our nation to utilize anything less than the full extent of our manufacturing base to produce life-saving equipment is entirely unacceptable. Our men and women in uniform stand ready and able to put their expertise to use to combat this public health crisis and get critical personal protective equipment to our frontline health care workers and patients in need. We must provide them with clear instruction on how to proceed immediately.”

“COVID-19 does not recognize fence lines and we believe our country needs a ‘one community’ approach that links bases and communities together to manage response and recovery. For this approach to truly be effective, installation leaders need to have clear guidance that partnering with communities through this crisis is not only allowed but is imperative. Installations that have the capacity to produce PPE should be allowed to do so and to distribute to communities in need,” said Joe Driskill, President, Association of Defense Communities.

You can read the full letter by clicking here or reading the text below:


April 17, 2020 

Dear Secretary Esper and Administrator Gaynor,

During this unprecedented crisis, we are writing in support of a whole-of-government response to overcome the challenges we now face. 

The Department of Defense working with other civilian agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission is necessary to defeat the threats to our national safety and security posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are writing to urge you to utilize the DOD’s manufacturing base – which exists for the very purpose of providing essential services during national defense contingency situations such as these – to provide much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks, face shield, gowns, and glove, and medical equipment, such as ventilators. 

Healthcare providers and workers from our home districts have urgent and ongoing requirements for PPE can and will not fulfill the demand for supplies. At the same time, defense department officials and leaders of our organic industrial base continue to express a strong willingness and readiness to use their facilities, expertise, and capabilities to meet the shortfalls in material and equipment.

In some cases, military facilities are ready to convert existing processes over to the manufacture of PPE or ventilator components.  In other cases, installations have already used their tools, such as 3D printers, to make masks and face shields.  In all these cases, we have heard that these commands lack the authority and approval they need in order to proceed any further.  They cannot do anything more to help their local communities, their states, or the nation without direction from senior officials at the Department of Defense.

As we understand this issue, many military installations – especially those in the organic industrial base – find themselves in one of three different scenarios: 1) installations that are already making PPE but do not have the authority to distribute the materials outside of the military; 2) installations that have the capability to make PPE and other equipment but cannot get the authority to begin production; and 3) other installations that have yet to vet their ability to transition to production of PPE and medical components but that could be quickly outfitted to make these materials. 

The Department of Defense has deferred to FEMA as the lead agent with regard to this matter. We urge you provide clear guidance and direction to military installations, especially to the organic industrial base, on how they can use their personnel, expertise, and capabilities to help address critical PPE and medical equipment shortages across our country.

We urge you unlock the full potential of the breadth of the resources and capabilities available at military installations across our country. The lives of our countrymen and women depend on it.



Cheri Bustos

Derek Kilmer

Tom Cole

Pete Aguilar

Anthony G. Brown

André Carson

Matt Cartwright

Ed Case

Sean Casten

Joaquin Castro

David N. Cicilline

Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.

Steve Cohen

Henry Cuellar

Diana DeGette

Suzan DelBene

Abby Finkenauer

Brian Fitzpatrick

Bill Foster

Raúl M. Grijalva

Debra Haaland

Josh Harder

Jahana Hayes

Jaime Herrera Beutler

Jared Huffman

Sheila Jackson Lee

Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr.

Marcy Kaptur

Joseph P. Kennedy, III

Ann Kirkpatrick

Conor Lamb

Daniel W. Lipinski

Dave Loebsack

James P. McGovern

Seth Moulton

Richard E. Neal

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Chris Pappas

Scott Peters

Mike Quigley

Kathleen M. Rice

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Bobby L. Rush

Tim Ryan

Jan Schakowsky

Bradley S. Schneider

Darren Soto

Abigail D. Spanberger

Jackie Speier

Thomas R. Suozzi

Paul D. Tonko

John Yarmuth