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Warner urges Trump to use DPA to manufacture PPE, COVID-19 testing supplies

coronavirus politics
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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and seven Senate colleagues in urging President Trump to expand his use of the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production capacity for personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing supplies.

“An analysis by Harvard University researchers found that the United States must, at minimum and under the best-case scenario, double the number of tests being conducted each week,” the senators wrote. “In many cases, even when state and local governments are able to get some supplies into the hands of their frontline medical personnel, they go unused because of shortages in other key supplies.”

They continued, “Congress appropriated $57.6 billion to address critical needs such as these, including $16 billion to purchase medical supplies for distribution through the Strategic National Stockpile and at least $11 billion to support efforts to expand testing by states, localities, and tribes. But it is clear that these widespread shortages will not be fully resolved until the nation’s production capacity can be dramatically scaled up, and despite unprecedented global demand, private sector companies have been reticent to expand production capacity without support and direction from the federal government. For that reason, is imperative that the federal government fully use its authority to support and expand production of PPE and testing supplies.”

Section 301 and 302 of Title III authorize the President to reduce current or projected shortfalls of industrial resources, critical technology items, or essential materials needed for national defense purposes.

Section 303 gives the President the authority to create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore domestic industrial base capacity, which includes purchasing or making purchase commitments of industrial resources or critical technology items, making subsidy payments for domestically produced materials, and installing and purchasing equipment for government and privately-owned industrial facilities to expand their production capacity.

In their letter, the senators note that Title III has only been used twice by the government to respond to this health crisis and urge the President to immediately expand production and deliveries of PPE and testing supplies by using Title III of the Defense Production Act and any other appropriate authority.

Sen. Warner has long called for an increase in testing and PPE production in the Commonwealth. In March, he joined his colleagues in introducing the Free COVID-19 Testing Act, legislation that would expand free tests to confirm coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.

He has also introduced legislation to require the president to utilize all available authorities under the Defense Production Act to mobilize a federal response to the pandemic through an equitable and transparent process.

Additionally, he has pressed the Administration to outline how it plans to use Defense Production Act powers to increase production of testing supplies and equipment needed for the pandemic response.