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Mobilizing Procurement to Help with COVID-19 Response

April 21, 2020
DHS’s new Procurement & Acquisition Innovation Response (PAIR) team is helping to manage the agency’s growing number of inquiries and offers of help.

In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) mobilized a Procurement & Acquisition Innovation Response (PAIR) team to help manage the “significant surge in inquiries and offers of help” that the department was receiving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officially announced by DHS’ CPO Soraya Correa on April 1, PAIR is supporting FEMA and other DHS departments in the review, vetting and coordination of incoming COVID-19-related inquiries, particularly those that offer new and innovative ideas and solutions.

The PAIR team includes individuals who bring expertise in the areas of operational procurement, procurement policy, industry engagement, strategic sourcing and procurement innovation. “The COVID-19 PAIR team is ensuring that DHS is maximizing procurement flexibilities,” Correa said in her statement, “and innovative approaches to meet the requirements for COVID-19 response.”

In Homeland Security sets up coronavirus procurement team,” the Federal Times notes that DHS is home to FEMA, the agency leading the federal government’s coronavirus response efforts. “This is the second notice to industry sent by Correa in the last week as the department sought to halt the spread of coronavirus,” Andrew Eversden writes. “On March 25, Correa sent a message to contractors outlining new health and safety guidelines at the agency’s St. Elizabeth’s campus.”

Helping to Ease the Pressure

According to Open Government Partnership, public procurement professionals across the world are under immense pressure as they shop around to meet the huge demand for medical equipment and supplies—the scrubs, disinfectants, masks, gloves, medicines and ventilators that are essential to containing the new coronavirus outbreak. 

In “Emergency Procurement for COVID-19: Buying Fast, Open and Smart,” the group outlines its recommendations for procurement in this time of crisis, emphasizing the need for fast and frictionless contracting procedures; public and open emergency procedures; the use of large upfront payments to secure critical supplies; and the use of Open Contracting Data Standards (in those countries that are already using e-procurement platforms and disclosing data in an open format).  

“Unprecedented demand requires a rapid dialogue with the market about where those supplies can come from,” Open Government Partnership points out. “That is much slower if you have to piece together manually rather than conducting an open dialogue with the marketplace online.”

Finally, the group feels that the world’s supply chains will need “reengineering” in order to deal effectively with the impacts of COVID-19. “Governments don’t have all the answers, so they need to reach out to the private sector and other parts of society to ask for solutions,” it states. “The UK government asked suppliers to come up with solutions for ventilators, which resulted in a major consortium coming forward to help.”  

Playing a Vital Role

As private and public organizations worldwide continue to deal with the current impacts of COVID-19—and as they prepare for the post-COVID environment—expect to see more procurement departments playing a critical role in both the current response and the longer-term recovery process.

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.