MURPHY, BLUMENTHAL, KING AND COLLEAGUES URGE PRESIDENT TO USE EXISTING AUTHORITY TO BOOST PRODUCTION OF EQUIPMENT AS AMERICA FACES VENTILATOR SHORTAGE AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Senators Urging President to Invoke Defense Production Act Of 1950 (DPA), Strengthen Domestic Manufacturing Capacity and Supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Ventilators, Diagnostic Test Kits and Other Medical Supplies

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), joined Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and twenty-five of their Senate colleagues in urging President Trump to use his existing authority to help address widespread shortages of medical equipment, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. In a letter sent to President Trump, the senators pushed the president to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA), which authorizes the president to strengthen domestic manufacturing capacity and supply in extraordinary circumstances, and to direct the production by private sector firms of critical manufactured goods to meet urgent national security needs. Congress amended DPA in 2009 to explicitly extend those authorities to support domestic preparedness and response to national emergencies, like the coronavirus pandemic.

The senators pushed the president to use this existing authority to help address widespread shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, diagnostic test kits and other medical supplies needed to treat and protect healthcare providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.  As is being reported widely, the supply of ventilators and life-saving equipment is in short supply.

“There are widespread reports of shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other medical supplies that require medical professionals to ration existing supplies,” wrote the senators. “The Department of Defense, in collaboration with Governors and appropriate federal agencies, should immediately undertake a national assessment of the supply and anticipated needs for PPE, ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other needed medical supplies to support the use of its DPA authorities, as well as determining the potential use of the Defense Logistics Agency to support the rapid deployment of needed equipment, including from existing reserves.”

The senators continue, “It is critical that we substantially and immediately bolster domestic testing capacity to identify cases and, accordingly, help slow the spread of COVID-19.   In addition to meeting the acute and immediate needs of our health care system, we must also anticipate potential medium to long-term needs for ventilators, PPE, test kits, and other goods as the disease spreads in the coming months, including a potential second wave.”

In addition to Murphy, Blumenthal and King, the letter was also signed by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear President Trump:

The Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) authorizes the president to strengthen domestic manufacturing capacity and supply in extraordinary circumstances, and to direct the production by private sector firms of critical manufactured goods to meet urgent national security needs.  In 2009, Congress amended DPA to explicitly extend those authorities to support domestic preparedness and response to national emergencies, like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

There are widespread reports of shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other medical supplies that require medical professionals to ration existing supplies. The Department of Defense, in collaboration with Governors and appropriate federal agencies, should immediately undertake a national assessment of the supply and anticipated needs for PPE, ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other needed medical supplies to support the use of its DPA authorities, as well as determining the potential use of the Defense Logistics Agency to support the rapid deployment of needed equipment, including from existing reserves. It is critical that we substantially and immediately bolster domestic testing capacity to identify cases and, accordingly, help slow the spread of COVID-19.   In addition to meeting the acute and immediate needs of our health care system, we must also anticipate potential medium to long-term needs for ventilators, PPE, test kits, and other goods as the disease spreads in the coming months, including a potential second wave.

In each of our states and across the nation, we know how to make things, quickly and efficiently.  But these decisions cannot be left solely to the market or to individual states.  The federal government must lead in making sure our nation’s industrial capability is harnessed to address this urgent need.  We urge you to invoke DPA authorities immediately to respond to this pandemic and alleviate these stresses on our health care system.

Sincerely,

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