Trump to invoke Defense Production Act for first time during pandemic

March 25, 2020

On March 24, the Trump Administration was set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time since the coronavirus hit the United States in late January.

With millions respirators, ventilators, hospital beds, and masks all urgently needed by the healthcare sector, the president will use the act—which gives him authority to expedite and expand the supply of resources by ordering the U.S. industrial base to manufacture needed goods—only to procure about 60,000 coronavirus test kits, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Administrator Peter Gaynor of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday on CNN that the administration had decided to use the Defense Production Act because “there are some test kits we need to get our hands on.”

Gaynor said the federal government was also inserting “DPA language” into its mass contract for 500 million masks.

The president last week issued an executive order invoking the law, but for days resisted calls to use it, saying he is concerned about nationalizing American businesses, the Journal said. Governors have called on him to invoke both the production and the distribution elements of the law, saying states are having to compete against each other for supplies.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” President Trump said at a press briefing on Sunday. “The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.” He said sufficient numbers of companies were volunteering to manufacture masks and other protective gear, so invoking the Defense Production Act wasn’t yet necessary, though he said “we may have to use it someplace along the chain.”

“We’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it, and we’re going to use it today,” Gaynor said on CNN.

Administration officials have been having tense internal discussions about whether to use the law for weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Research contact @WSJ

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