The Impact of COVID-19 at DOE

Published: April 08, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicDOEResearch and DevelopmentSpending TrendsSupercomputing

Energy is responding to the novel coronavirus in two primary ways, by bolstering telework capabilities and offering its national lab resources towards the response and prevention of COVID-19.

Key Takeaways:

  • Funding allocated to DOE by the CARES Act directly reflects the impact COVID-19 has had on the agency in areas of telework and scientific research.
  • Reported spending by DOE since mid-March reveals purchases to support remote access and teleworking in response to COVID-19.
  • DOE is not a health-centered civilian agency, yet the department’s national labs are playing a substantial role in the study and prevention of COVID-19.
  • Supercomputing simulation models for vaccine research and 3D printing of medical supplies are among several ways DOE’s labs are helping to respond to the pandemic.

The Department of Energy holds several critical responsibilities for the nation. Among them, ensuring the electrical grid is working and protected, and maintaining the nation’s strategic deterrents. Even more so, DOE is home to 17 national laboratories, ripe with innovative resources to contribute heavily to the U.S. innovation and research community.  

DOE has carved out two paths for itself in response to the coronavirus outbreak: enhancing telework capabilities for its employees and utilizing the national labs for scientific research. In fact, DOE funding allocated by the recent CARES Act reflect both avenues. The stimulus package provides DOE with an additional $127.5M in FY 2020, $99.5M towards the Office of Science and NNSA to support increased operations at the national labs, and $28M to support employee remote access and telework.

DOE COVID-19 Spending

According to Secretary Brouilette, Energy has moved to maximum telework in response to COVID-19 prevention and mitigation efforts. Nonetheless, this move is a tough one. DOE admits that the agency does not have the bandwidth to accommodate remote access for employees, even resorting to staggering work schedules to reduce burden on the network.

DOE reported spending (as of 4/7/20) in response to the coronavirus reflects the agency’s efforts to quickly boost teleworking and remote access capabilities:

Award Date

Value ($K)


Contract Vehicle




Countertrade Products


Additional laptops for telework



Syscom, Inc.


Admin response plan and warehouse support services for WAPA and Rocky Mountain region



Lyme Computer Systems, Inc.


Fedramp Cisco Webex 3000 subscription



Edgewater Federal Solutions


IT support services of cyber operations for Environmental Management Consolidated Business Center

Source: Deltek, FPDS

Note: All awards made to small businesses

National Labs Respond to COVID-19

Though federal departments such as HHS and VA play a large role in the nation’s COVID-19 response, DOE’s infamous national labs have also jumped in to help with the management and prevention of the disease. According to Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science, the labs are uniquely capable of handling a crisis like this. The labs are able to provide large user facilities, perform science at a scale and bring together a convergence of professionals (i.e. biologists, computer scientists, chemists, physicists, etc.). Though only some of the labs are directly working in connection with the COVID-19 response, all 17 of the labs are collaborating in a working group to answer questions related to coronavirus, says Dr. Fall.

Six of the national labs are playing a large role in the recently formed HPC Consortium, which harnesses 30 U.S.-based supercomputers and 400 petaflops of computing power - Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia. Thus far, the HPC consortium has received 35 proposals in connection with COVID-19 research and modeling, matching 19 of those proposals with a supercomputing partner, 11 of which are currently up and running, according to the latest announcement by the consortium.

Offering supercomputing capabilities partially reveals the labs’ role in the fight against the pandemic. In fact, DOE’s labs are helping in six distinct ways:

  1. Using x-ray light sources to take pictures of the virus to understand it.
  2. Powering computational models, in conjunction with AI/ML, to simulate billions of small molecules from drug libraries to co-crystalline with viral proteins to lead to potential vaccines for the virus.
  3. Providing biochemical characteristics in models of the disease to research how the disease spreads in body cells and tissues to lead to better testing for the outbreak and possible vaccines.
  4. Utilizing supercomputing towards epidemiology to model the spread of the disease across the country or a particular region.
  5. Helping state emergency management agencies conduct supply chain planning analysis through Argonne’s National Preparedness Analytics Center (NPAC).
  6. Applying additive manufacturing methods, or 3D printing, by 15 of the labs to help make more facemasks, face shields and ventilators.

Scientists are continually researching every aspect of COVID-19 and the large roles Energy’s labs are playing in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic is likely to increase as the disease progresses. A majority of the labs are government owned and contractor operated, with opportunities to assist the labs typically solicited directly by those vendors. Likewise, as the disease progresses and more of the nation shelters in place over an expanded period of time, DOE’s need for increased telework equipment and services will be prolonged.