The Defense Production Act went from an obscure wartime law to a national focal point on Wednesday when President Donald Trump announced that he would invoke it to fill the gaps in medical supplies needed to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.
So how does it work?
The law – passed in 1950 as a response to the Korean War – gives the government more control during emergencies to direct industrial production.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency describes the act as “the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base to support military, energy, space and homeland security programs.”
The act will hand Trump “a broad set of authorities to influence domestic industry in the interest of national defense,” according to an updated Congressional Research Service report on the act released earlier this month.
“The authorities can be used across the federal government to shape the domestic industrial base so that, when called upon, it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed for the national defense,” the report says.
The act is divided into three main sections:
- Priorities and Allocations, which allows the President to require corporations to accept and prioritize contracts for services and materials deemed necessary to aid US national defense.
- Expansion of Productive Capacity and Supply, which gives the President the authority to to create incentives for industry to produce critical materials.
- General Provisions, which broadly establishes government authority to strike agreements with private industry, to halt foreign corporate mergers that threaten national security and to create a volunteer bloc of industry executives who could be called to government service.
Trump’s plan to invoke the act comes as top health care officials say there is not enough stockpiled medical equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to fill the anticipated need as the nation’s health care system deals with the coronavirus.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services told medical professionals on a conference call Monday that there was not enough personal protective equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile to cover expected gaps in state and local supplies, according to a source who was on the call.
After announcing he was invoking the act Wednesday, Trump said at the White House that he sees the country as on a wartime footing and himself as a wartime President.
“I view it – in a sense as a wartime President.”
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.