WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 25: Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Treasury Secretary Steven … [+]
Topline: In a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal, a bipartisan group of over a hundred former national security officials requested President Trump fully invoke the powers of the Defense Production Act to combat the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, calling the delay “a grave mistake.”
- Among the officials cosigning the letter is former Secretary of Defense under President Obama Chuck Hagel, former Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Obama and President Trump Robert Work and former director of the NSA and CIA under President Clinton and President George W. Bush Michael Hayden.
- Trump has gone back and forth on whether to use the act to its full extent since last Wednesday, when he first said he’d invoke it; the full powers allow the federal government to compel private companies to produce supplies for national defense using loans and purchase commitments.
- Trump during his daily briefing Wednesday repeated his reason to hold off, saying companies like General Motors, Ford Motors and 3M have stepped forward to begin developing supplies.
- “The private sector lacks the ability to process incoming requests, prioritize the most urgent needs and coordinate with other companies absent more concerted government involvement,” the letter reads. “That is precisely what the DPA is designed to do.”
- It was a sentiment shared Tuesday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been urging the federal government to utilize the act given the apex of the outbreak will hit before they receive more supplies: “What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000?”
Crucial Quote: “If the ultimate objective is to save American lives, there is no alternative to utilizing the DPA immediately and to the fullest extent,” the letter says.
Key Background: According to the Washington Post, there are now 64,764 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and 919 deaths. Shortages of supplies have been an ongoing issue since the start of the pandemic. Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker outlined the large unfulfilled requests to his state in a tweet Monday. President Trump last week said the federal government is “not a shipping clerk” and that “governors are supposed to be doing it.” The impending $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief plan includes funds to develop more supplies for the Strategic National Stockpile, but voting on the bill is currently delayed due to disagreements over unemployment insurance.