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Buy Skilcraft Government Pens

The story of the pen began in 1965 when the General Services Administration (GSA) wrote a 16-page federal specifications document for a retractable ballpoint pen with a replaceable ink cartridge. After receiving a shipment of 13 million defective ballpoint pens from the original supplier in 1967, then-GSA Commissioner Heinz Abersfeller sought a new supplier and offered NIB the opportunity to produce the pens. On April 20, 1968, the SKILCRAFT U.S. Government Pen was added to the federal procurement list, making it available to federal purchasers through the AbilityOne Program.

buy skilcraft government pens

The quality of the government pen shifted perceptions about the capabilities of people who are blind and NIB and its associated agencies. The project paved the way for the introduction of dozens of new SKILCRAFT products in the following decades, creating hundreds of new jobs for people who are blind. Today, more than 5,000 quality SKILCRAFT products are available to government customers through the AbilityOne Program.

More than 100 people who are blind manufacture nearly 8 million SKILCRAFT U.S. Government Pens each year. Pen production sustains meaningful employment for individuals like Susan Kasten, who assembles pens at Industries for the Blind in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

First manufactured in the 1960s, according to highly detailed government and military specifications, the pen was designed to write without fail in office cubicles and war zones, alike. (An example of those specs: A single pen was required to be able to write a linear mile before needing an ink refill and had to be able to withstand extreme temperatures).

As the government began buying more commercial products over the years, the military-grade requirements mostly fell by the wayside. But the company says the instantly recognizable pens are still largely made the same as they were half a century ago.

Each year, several dozen workers crank out about 8 million pens, Lynch said. The pens are sold to the government under the AbilityOne program, which helps ensure some federal contracting dollars go toward companies that employ the disabled.

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

Skilcraft, often stylized as SKILCRAFT, is the registered trade name of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB).[1] Products made by Skilcraft are created largely by visually impaired or severely disabled individuals. Products bearing the Skilcraft brand are commonly used in United States federal government institutions, including the United States Postal Service. They are also commonly sold in U.S. military base exchanges and commissaries.[2]

In 1938, President Roosevelt signed the Wagner-O'Day Act which directed the government to purchase products manufactured by blind Americans.[3] Robert Irwin, who was the executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind, and Peter Salmon who was the assistant director for the Industrial Home for the Blind promoted the bill in Washington, D.C.[3] This act gave non-profit organizations for the blind the ability to sell to the federal government.[4] It also provided the creation of a committee, known as the Committee on Purchases of Blind-Made Products, which had providentially appointed members representing various federal departments and private citizens.[5]

The Committee for Purchase designated NIB and National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH) to be the two central, non-profit organizations which coordinate government acquisitions from hundreds of independent organizations for people who are blind or severely disabled.[17]

The first products manufactured under the program were mops and brooms for cleaning government offices.[19] The federal government awarded around $220,000 in contracts to 36 workshops to manufacture the mops and brooms.[20] By 1939, NIB expanded to sell pillowcases, sanitary swabs, and fiber door mats.[21]

Later, pens and office supplies were introduced.[22] NIB would supply the government with 70 million ballpoint pens a year by 1969.[23] These pens have certain requirements, which include the ability to "write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero."[22] The ballpoint pen contract helped create jobs for 125 new workers with disabilities.[24] By 2014, sales of the pens reached around five million dollars, with 60% of purchases from the U.S. military.[11]

Today, the Skilcraft name encompasses more than 3,500 products including office supplies, janitorial equipment, uniforms, and hospital supplies.[26] Skilcraft also provides services, such as call centers, on a contract basis to government agencies.[26]

The original attempt to create pens to this spec failed, with the original commercial supplier sending 13 million defective units to the General Services Administration. The requested specs, though rigorous and challenging to meet, were not something the US Government was willing to compromise on. So a new supplier capable of meeting the need was required.

After the defective batch in 1967, the GSA decided to look for another, more reliable source instead. National Industries for the Blind was given the opportunity to try meeting the stringent pen requirements. It was a bold move on the part of GSA Commissioner Heinz Abersfeller, but his intuition and vision paid off. By 1970, 70 million SKILCRAFT US Government Pens were delivered to the government, each meeting the specs of the original 16-page document. The workforce of those who were blind or visually impaired succeeded where others could not, producing a consistent product with reliable performance.

The success of the original pen also led to the development of an entire family of SKILCRAFT pens in a variety of styles, colors and thicknesses. Today, the SKILCRAFT name can even be found emblazoned across a co-branded Zebra gel pen. As the needs and usage of the Federal customer changes, the range of writing instruments available through the AbilityOne Program evolves to accommodate.

Currently, there are thousands of SKILCRAFT products available through the AbilityOne Program, ranging from paper to toner, mop heads to floor cleaner, and even shelving to USB drives. SKILCRAFT items encompass almost any category of product the Federal government needs.

Retractable, refillable, ballpoint pen is imprinted with U.S. Government and is a rugged, yet economic workhorse of the U.S. government and military. Ink does not skip or smear. Brass refill cartridge for extended shelf life. The barrel color indicates ink color. Pen is designed to write anywhere including land or water regardless of climate and altitude. Writes one mile.

It would be very difficult to believe anyone who's served in the military or worked in federal service hasn't come across the workhorse of U.S. military bureaucracy at some point in their career. The government's go-to ballpoint turns 55 years old in 2023 and shows no signs of being replaced any time soon.

First introduced in April 1968, they are made by the National Industries for the Blind (Skilcraft is the NIB's trade name), a nonprofit that provides training and employment for the visually impaired. They churn out a great product at just 60 cents per unit while living up to 16 full pages of government-mandated requirements.

Skilcraft pens have been used to keep the nails of female troops in regulation, to repair connectors on military aircraft avionics, plug holes in pipes and who knows how many other uses that have been specific to one's military occupational specialty. Rumor even has it that they are refillable, but there are few anecdotes of anyone using all the ink before losing one.

Civilians interested in test-driving a Skilcraft pen but who aren't employed by the United States can still have the chance to accidentally take one home. As the official pen of the federal government, they can be found at post offices around the country.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 24, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nation's largest employment resource for people who are blind, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the SKILCRAFT U.S. Government Pen during 2018. The ubiquitous pen, released to the federal government in 1968, has become a beloved product among generations of federal government employees and members of the U.S. military. Success of the government pen project paved the way for thousands of new SKILCRAFT products to be introduced in the following decades.

Three NIB associated nonprofit agencies are involved in the production of the pen: Alphapointe in Kansas City, Missouri, manufactures and supplies component parts to Industries for the Blind in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, North Carolina, where employees who are blind assemble and package the pens for sale to government customers through the AbilityOne Program. Collectively, these agencies manufacture more than 8 million SKILCRAFT U.S. Government Pens each year, sustaining meaningful employment for more than 100 people who are blind.

The story of the pen began in 1965 when the General Services Administration (GSA) wrote a 16-page federal specifications document for a retractable ballpoint pen with a replaceable ink cartridge. After receiving a shipment of 13 million defective ballpoint pens from a commercial supplier in 1967, then-GSA Commissioner Heinz Abersfeller sought a new supplier and offered NIB the opportunity to produce the U.S. Government ballpoint pens.

Within a year, the pen project provided employment for 166 employees, 133 of whom were blind. By 1970, NIB associated agencies met the GSA Commissioner's challenge by delivering 70 million SKILCRAFT U.S. Government Pens to the government.

The most significant aspect of the project, however, was and remains the outstanding quality of the pens produced by employees who are blind working at NIB associated agencies. The quality of the pen shifted perceptions about the capabilities of NIB associated agencies and led to new SKILCRAFT products introduced in the following decades. Today, employees who are blind produce more than 5,000 different SKILCRAFT products, such as office supplies, cleaning supplies, hardware and paints, and a wide range of products to equip the U.S. military, including uniforms, bedding, and protective equipment. 041b061a72


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