The Trump Administration is set to invoke the Defense Production Act, which gives the federal government the authority to direct private companies to “meet the needs of national defense” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Reports are now claiming that the Trump Administration is set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time to obtain more than 60,000 coronavirus test kits.
This, according to the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who said the decision was made because “there are some test kits” the government needs to get their hands on. He also said language from the DPA will be inserted into a mass contract for 500 million masks.
While Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in an executive order issued last week, this appears to be the first time his administration is putting it to use.
However, Trump did take to Twitter Tuesday morning where he said, “The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming as back up to States.”
The Defense Production Act, which was signed into law back in 1950 during the Korean War, gives the federal government the authority to direct private companies to “meet the needs of national defense.” The DPA lets the president use loans and other incentives to boost production of materials. And it has been invoked during war, natural disasters, and as a response to terrorism.
While the Defense Production Act does not fully nationalize private companies, it does the give the president the power to force companies to prioritize government contracts.
Trump previously claimed he did not need to invoke the DPA because companies like Ford, General Motors, and Tesla were already shifting their priorities to make ventilators and other metal products in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But while those shifts in production could take months to come about, some lawmakers and state officials argue that the US should have invoked the DPA long ago, because the federal government has more leverage when it comes to their purchasing power.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter, “We need the federal government to use the Defense Production Act so that we can get the medical supplies we desperately need. We can’t just wait for companies to come forward with offers and hope they will. This is a national emergency.”
The US is currently facing shortages of everything from coronavirus testing kits, to surgical masks. States across the country have reported a lack of basic supplies. The CDC has responded by encouraging healthcare workers to improvise by using bandanas or other materials in place of the masks they desperately need.
Right now, nearly 44,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States, and while the Trump Administration appears poised to gradually invoke the Defense Production Act, the increasing shortage of supplies has raised questions about whether the US will be prepared for the worst of the virus when it hits.