Defense Department increases N95 mask production and authorizes N95 decontamination machines.
An Airman assigned to 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Flight, adjusts the straps to his N95 mask to begin a fit test at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, March 13, 2020.
(Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

The Pentagon announced two separate projects recently, both part of the Defense Production Act invoked by President Trump to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The first project increases domestic production of N95 masks to more than 39 million over the next 90 days. The second contract calls for 60 N95 Critical Decontamination Units. The machines enable the sterilization of up to 34 million masks per week.

N95 Decontamination Units Contract

“I remain extremely proud of the selfless efforts of Department of Defense personnel who continue to do everything they can to help provide medical masks, test kits, medicine and meals to support America’s military, medical, emergency services and law enforcement professionals who are on the front lines and need them most,” said Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord, in a Defense Department release.

The procurement includes a service contract for Battelle, covering both operations and maintenance. The $415 million contract calls for 60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS) machines in total. The machines can each decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 respirators per day. A mask can then be reused up to 20 times.

“We proved that we could reuse these masks, basically decontaminate them for reuse up to 20 times with no degradation,” Lewis Von Thaer, Battelle’s CEO, told “This has been a team effort not just from our team but the FDA, our local politicians and others have helped because of the emergency. And everyone just came together to do this as quickly as possible.”

Defense Production Act Increases N95 Production

The decontamination machines come on the heels of the first use of the Defense Production Act. On Saturday, the Defense Department authorized $133 million for the domestic production of N95 masks.

“The $133 million project will use these authorities to increase domestic production capacity of N94 masks to over 39 million in the next 90 days,” said a Defense Department release. “The increased production will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation.”

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