CRANE, Ind. –
A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) employee is serving on a detail overseeing a $900 million portfolio to expand the U.S. vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing supply chain. Over the past two years, these investments and partnerships with industry have developed into the construction of new manufacturing facilities across the country to develop future vaccine and therapeutic capabilities.
NSWC Crane employee Heather Baladi started serving on detail for this initiative in 2021 and is now the Program Officer for the vials portfolio—which includes six multi-million dollar vials manufacturing capacity expansion projects. The detail is in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) public health mission. The vials portfolio is one of many of the public health missions aimed at expanding the American vaccine and therapeutic industrial base. All of the projects under this capacity expansion effort total a $2.3 billion economic impact across 20 communities in 12 states.
“I thoroughly enjoy being part of this team and I feel lucky to have a part in this important mission,” says Baladi. “I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics. I’ve also really enjoyed working with people across the country and seeing my direct contributions to this effort.”
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) and the Army Contracting Command were leveraged to assist the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is an office in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who were tasked in 2020 to ensure that every COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and test kit were bought, packaged, and delivered to the Nation.
The JPEO-CBRND has a special Joint Assisted Acquisition (JA2) team, established by the May 2021 memorandum of understanding between DoD and HHS, which supports the continued contracting and acquisition expertise needed for the Nation’s ongoing mission to fight the coronavirus, including partnerships with the Federal COVID-19 Response interagency team, academia and the American industrial base. The JPEO-CBRND JA2 team is on a mission to support our Nation through innovative contracting at the speed of relevance, securing vaccine doses to meet evolving need, ensuring supply chain resiliency for medical countermeasure development and establishing an enduring pandemic response infrastructure.
Baladi says prior to 2021, the mission was primarily reactionary to provide an immediate response during the earliest waves of the pandemic.
“By 2021, the U.S. needed to move beyond being reactive and pivot to being proactive. The U.S. needed to learn from the pandemic and get prepared to respond to future public health emergencies,” says Baladi. “In order to be proactive, the U.S. needed to expand its domestic industrial base. Pre-pandemic, much of the industry that manufactured and packaged vaccines and therapeutics was done overseas.
We learned during the pandemic that global manufacturing and trade was severely constrained. This effort strengthens the domestic industrial base and will reduce future U.S. reliance on foreign manufacturing.”
The Navy sent representatives from across the Warfare Centers to assist the JPEO-CBRND with their proactive response effort to expand the industrial base.
Baladi received the Armed Forces Civilian Service Medal for contributions to National COVID-19 response from the JPEO-CBRND for her role in this effort in 2021. She says these efforts are investments in the U.S. economy as well as public health.
“We’re building partnerships and investing in industry to do what they do best,” says Baladi. “For instance, one of the construction efforts in my portfolio is being built in Fishers, Indiana. Having these capacities available will allow the U.S. to surge and respond to a future public health emergency. A lot of companies that were manufacturing and packaging critical medications before the pandemic, responded by shifting priorities to make the COVID-19 vaccine and/or therapeutics during the pandemic. With surge capacity in place, companies in the future should be able to do both—not just during pandemic response, but if there is an endemic or other public health emergency. HHS will be able to actuate these agreements and tools that have been put in place as a part of this effort.”
Baladi says some may be surprised to know the DoD provided help to a public health mission.
“The DoD was leveraged because it has the structure in place to provide assistance,” says Baladi. “Though the Nation’s public health is not a typical DoD mission, we are set up in a way to help. These investments will directly benefit public health as well as the local economies where the efforts take place.”
Baladi adds this experience has been unique compared to her experience in the DoD.
“I’ve never been so close to what is happening in the news,” says Baladi. “Not everyone gets to see the direct impact of their efforts…I helped negotiate an award and saw it publicized not long after the agreement was signed. It’s been a privilege to work on this mission alongside other government agencies to achieve a higher level goal. It is amazing to see what we can accomplish when people come together for a common purpose. I’m honored to have been selected to be part of it.”
About NSWC Crane
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.
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