New DCMA Commercial Item Determination for COVID-19 Products and Services

Published: April 06, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicDCMAPolicy and Legislation

The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) issued new guidance to ensure that the products and services critical to COVID-19 response are classified by contracting officers as “commercial items.” The benefit of this classification is that it streamlines the certifications and clauses required within contracts and provides exemptions to some price reporting requirements.

Key Takeaways:

• DOD is expanding the definition of “commercial item” to speed acquisitions of critical goods and services.

• The change simplifies the necessary contract terms for contracting officers procuring much needed medical equipment and services.

• This determination, in addition to increases in the limits for the use of Simplified Acquisition Procedures from $7M to $13M, provides contracting officers with additional flexibilities for emergency acquisitions. 

DCMA's Commercial Item Determination, for specific supplies and services needed for COVID-19 response and only for the period necessary to resolve the emergency, make it easier for contracting officers to award contracts for vaccine R&D, antiviral medication, temporary testing facilities and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).  The guidance references not only the types of goods and services considered commercial items, but also provides specific company information as examples. This is presumably to illustrate that some market research has been performed to determine that non-government entities purchase these goods and services, bolstering the justification that they are indeed commercial items.

Critical Areas deemed commercial items:

  • Vaccines – multiple biotech companies are working to develop COVID-19 vaccines. Because they are private institutions developing them for private hospitals and other medical entities, they can be deemed commercial items.
  • Treatments – biotech companies are also working on various treatments and antiviral medication to be provided to private entities.
  • Temporary structures – products and services to erect temporary structures such as medical tents and testing stations, such as tents, logistical services and staffing.
  • Emergency medical supplies – because these types of supplies are typically purchased by private entities such as private hospitals, ambulance companies and doctor’s offices, they can be deemed commercial. This includes:
    • Ventilators
    • Medical beds
    • PPE - surgical masks, exam gloves, isolation gowns, shoe covers and eye protection
    • Kids/small face masks
    • N95 respirators
    • Culture swabs
    • Disinfectant wipes and cleaners,
    • Hand soap and sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and cleaners, germicidal bleach
    • Infrared thermometers
  • Facilities services (shutdowns, maintenance, deep cleaning)

This policy change, along with many others, help simplify and speed a federal acquisition process that can be complex and daunting for even the most experienced government contractors, let alone companies with critical products and services that are unaccustomed to the federal procurement environment.