Shaheen & Hassan Voice Support for Biden Administration Plan to Fully Utilize Defense Production Act, Increase Supply of Necessary Medical Equipment and Supplies

January 20, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of Senators in a letter to President Joe Biden, supporting his administration’s plan to quickly utilize all available authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to rapidly increase the production and stockpiling of medical, testing and protective equipment supplies. U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) led the letter.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Senate Democrats had called on the Trump administration to fully utilize the DPA to ramp up nationwide production of testing supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment. The Trump administration failed to do this, which has created continued supply chain issues that are having dangerous impacts on the nation’s response to COVID-19, as well as the nation’s ability to scale up vaccine production and distribution.

In their letter to President Biden, the Senators expressed their support for the Biden administration’s intended use of executive action to utilize all authorities under the DPA and deploy a more functional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senators wrote, “Given the continued supply chain issues that we have seen over the past year, we believe it is in the best interest of the American public to shore up our access to critical supplies immediately and in the long term through all available DPA authorities.”

They continued, “The DPA can help us reach our goal of vaccinating enough of the American public to achieve herd immunity by ramping up production of sterile needles, rubber stoppers, syringes and other vaccine supplies now … we need to use every tool available to make up the ground we have lost. The DPA could also be used to regulate vaccine distribution, ensure that companies do not charge for the vaccine in the future and enhance production of materials needed for vaccines to address future pandemics.”

The Senators noted how American manufacturers and workers have stepped up to increase domestic manufacturing of PPE throughout the pandemic, but that the DPA must also be used to ensure these manufacturers, many of whom have acted in the interest of public health, have greater access to affordable, domestically-sourced raw materials.

The Senators concluded, “Make no mistake, a dependable and resilient domestic manufacturing capacity to respond to a global pandemic is a national security imperative. Given the opaque nature of the transition and the lack of transparency from the current administration, we understand that your team may not yet have full insight into the state of the medical supply pipeline and Strategic National Stockpile. We stand ready to partner with you to help overcome these substantial obstacles. Your use of executive action to utilize the extraordinary authorities under DPA will support a more functional response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that America is stronger now and more resilient when the next pandemic occurs.”

The full letter is available here.

Shaheen and Hassan have fought to secure urgently needed personal protective equipment for New Hampshire. Senator Shaheen previously introduced the Homeland Procurement Reform Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to increase the amount of PPE it procures from American companies. This bill has bipartisan support and would ensure that the domestic supply chain for PPE is capable of supplying the critical items that FEMA and other federal agencies need during a national emergency.

Last April, Shaheen and Hassan introduced legislation that laid out a framework for an effective COVID-19 response by federalizing and adding oversight and transparency to the supply chain for critical medical supplies and equipment. With the state’s congressional delegation, they sent multiple letters to the Trump administration requesting rapid assistance to ensure New Hampshire health care providers have the supplies needed to address coronavirus cases the state is experiencing. In addition, Shaheen had sent a letter pressing the Trump administration for information on the distribution of critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment. Shaheen and Hassan repeatedly called for then-President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act and introduced legislation to expedite the procurement of medical equipment, under the DPA. Specifically, Shaheen and Hassan have pushed the previous administration to fully utilize the DPA to ensure the VA has the supplies and equipment needed to protect veterans from COVID-19.