New legislation from U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) attempts to guarantee maximized use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) during emergency response and to increase domestic production of critical medical supplies.
The Public Health Emergency (PHE) Production Act, introduced this week, would prioritize the fulfillment of federal contracts for existing public health goods and services over any private sector orders. During times of DPA use, its funding would need to be equitably distributed between all federal agencies involved in carrying out its efforts, and interagency coordination would be stressed through a new interagency rotation program.
“COVID-19 continues to be a threat to public health,” Rounds said. “Our bipartisan legislation seeks to improve coordination within the federal government by providing greater transparency, better management, and the resources to rapidly respond to urgent requirements. This will give our communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic much-needed additional support during this critical time.”
Future emergencies would also benefit from creating a permanent DPA Title III Program Office within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This office would be responsible for planning, reporting, and implementing authorities to boost domestic manufacturing of critical public health resources deemed vital to effective pandemic preparedness and response alike.
“After 450,000 deaths from COVID-19—and over 100,000 Americans testing positive every day—this pandemic is far from over, and it’s critical that we address the shortages of testing supplies and PPE that our frontline healthcare providers rely on,” said Duckworth. “The PHE Production Act positions HHS to increase the manufacturing of medical equipment needed to distribute life-saving vaccines, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill with Senator Rounds to boost production and distribution of this equipment while maintaining effective oversight.”
Part of that oversight would also include the official DPA Committee to submit monthly reports to Congress during the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency on all DPA COVID-19 related activities.