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Herrera Beutler, Jayapal Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging President to Use Defense Production Act to Spur PPE Production

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Vancouver, June 23, 2020 | comments

U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) joined together in a bipartisan effort requesting that President Donald Trump invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to jump-start domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a letter signed by 14 members of Congress from across the aisle, the lawmakers write that invoking the DPA for PPE production would stave off another bidding war between state and local government institutions, spur economic recovery and prevent future outbreaks. In their letter, they cite the possibility of future COVID-19 outbreaks as well as ongoing shortages of PPE at medical facilities, nursing homes and other workplaces. 

“Current trends indicate that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible in the coming months. We must ensure that we are rapidly scaling up domestic production of PPE to both meet current needs and prepare for a possible resurgence of cases,” the lawmakers write. “Although existing domestic PPE producers are working hard and other companies have stepped up to divert their domestic manufacturing capacity to PPE, this output combined does not meet the nation’s massive needs. The federal government should act decisively to ensure adequate production.”

The full text of the letter follows, and a PDF of the letter is available here.

 

Dear President Trump:

For years, most personal protective equipment (PPE) has been manufactured outside the United States.[iv] This outsourcing has left the United States unprepared to meet our nation’s urgent domestic needs for PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chronic shortage of PPE leaves the nation’s employers, government bodies and public-serving institutions in a bidding war with each other for a limited domestic supply. Increasing domestic manufacture of PPE will also preserve and expand American manufacturing jobs. To address this impediment to national security, we ask that you invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to jump-start domestic production of PPE.

Providing targeted support for domestic manufacturing is squarely in line with Buy American policies[v] and would greatly aid in the economic recovery of our nation while reducing trade deficits and overreliance on foreign manufacturers. The U.S. was already at a medical equipment trade deficit of 14 percent before COVID-19, and had a medical equipment trade deficit of over seven percent with China.[vi]  Before the COVID-19 outbreak, China was the largest exporter of PPE in the world, exporting over 17 percent of the world’s PPE and 25% of the world’s face masks.[vii] China has been ramping up PPE manufacture during COVID-19 and is now positioned to become the dominant manufacturer of medical equipment and PPE[viii] – creating an even higher risk that, without intervention, the U.S. will remain reliant on foreign manufacturing that may be stopped or started at will for political means. 

Once the DPA is activated, the federal government will be able to reprioritize and redirect domestic PPE to the areas that need it most in the short-term, while enabling manufacturers to repurpose and retool their equipment to scale up domestic PPE production to ensure the steady domestic supply necessary to meet the scale of the crisis in the long-term. Current trends indicate that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible in the coming months.[ix] We must ensure that we are rapidly scaling up domestic production of PPE to both meet current needs and prepare for a possible resurgence of cases. Although existing domestic PPE producers are working hard and other companies have stepped up to divert their domestic manufacturing capacity to PPE[x], this output combined does not meet the nation’s massive needs.[xi] The federal government should act decisively to ensure adequate production. 

Key industries have asked the federal government for help in ensuring an adequate supply of PPE. High-exposure professions include healthcare, law enforcement and corrections, education and childcare, grocery and food service, and construction and repair continue to seek support in gaining access to adequate PPE.[xii] Many of these frontline workers have already paid a very high price, experiencing disproportionately high rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.[xiii] While many employers are committed to providing PPE for their workforces, these employers are struggling to find adequate PPE to meet their needs. The most essential and lacking PPE needed includes CDC-certified filter and N-95 masks; gloves; and gowns.

Ensuring adequate domestic production of PPE is critical to our nation’s economic recovery. As states are reopening, we have begun to see outbreaks in workplaces, such as meatpacking facilities and on farms. Outbreaks create instability, resulting in lost productivity and revenue for businesses, many of which have already been hard-hit and are struggling to survive. PPE is an essential tool in protecting workers and keeping our economy functioning until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available. 

Using the DPA for PPE production is a common-sense, nonpartisan way to bolster national security, preserve manufacturing jobs and ensure heightened American productivity. The Heritage Foundation has called the Trump administration’s use of the DPA to direct production of certain products a “pragmatic approach[…] to the supply challenges being faced by the health industry.”[xiv] Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Joshua Gotbaum wrote that using the DPA in this way would allow “federal agencies to collaborate with business to get critical supplies during emergencies — by encouraging investment and speeding production — and direct them to where they’re most needed.”[xv]

Bolstering the domestic production of PPE is a national security issue. Most PPE production has been outsourced – which has left states and employers unable to meet domestic needs in this time of global crisis. Our nation cannot afford to wait for PPE to be manufactured elsewhere – we need it now. Just as the Defense Production Act was used to ensure adequate, immediate production of ventilators, we urge you to use the DPA to immediately boost PPE production.

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