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President Trump’s historic visit this week to Allentown and Upper Macungie Township, in Pennsylvania’s scenic Lehigh Valley, ushers in a new era in the professional management of our nation’s stockpiles of essential medicines as well as critical medical supplies and equipment.
As we have learned from the current public health emergency, medicines like Propofol, medical supplies like N-95 respirators, surgical masks and gloves, and medical equipment like ventilators, are the critical strategic resources needed to fight threats from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) events and emerging infectious diseases like Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by SARS-CoV-2.
In visiting Pennsylvania, the president toured a distribution center operated by Owens and Minor. This company has played a key role during the COVID-19 response in both the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gowns as well as in PPE production.
State-of-the art distribution centers like that of Owens and Minor are an important part of the Trump administration’s strategic reboot of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) this administration inherited. It was miraculous that the administration was able to acquire the PPE and medicines and testing supplies we have needed at such a swift pace and in such large quantities.
We can’t, however, rely on miracles going forward as we continue to fight this enemy virus. By design, the Trump SNS 2.0 will be more robust and far less vulnerable to the enormous gaps we have come to learn exist within the global supply chain.
A key feature of SNS 2.0 will be significantly larger and more comprehensive and robust stockpiles. However, the real secret sauce of expanded stockpiles lies in several other methods to meet sudden and heavy demand.
With this new system, we will invite distributors like Owens and Minor, Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and others to house and manage our larger inventories. We will ask them to operate on a “first-in, first-out” basis to ensure freshness of critical resources with shorter shelf lives.
A far more elegant supply chain information technology system will overlay the management and distribution networks of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other relevant Federal agencies. This system will give us “real-time” insight into production, warehousing, and shipments of key supplies.
As the Trump administration works overtime to bring these critical supply chains and production home, we will work with key domestic producers to maintain additional reserve capacity. Such reserves will be explicitly designed to provide surge production when necessary to protect Americans when “an emerging infectious disease or CBRN threat” push comes to a “protecting the American people” shove.
When the current crisis hit, it became clear that as a nation, we were far too reliant on imported supplies from foreign manufacturers, including a significant portion of our PPE needs. This dangerous foreign dependency underscores that President Trump has been right from the beginning – we must continue to Buy American and build a strong manufacturing base. It is essential for our economic security, our national security, and in this case, our public health industrial base.
Accordingly, a key linchpin of SNS 2.0 is to fill our stockpiles with domestically supplied and domestically produced medicines, medical supplies, and medical equipment. To this end, on the Allentown trip, President Trump signed another important Defense Production Act (DPA) order designed to move our jobs and our factories back onshore.
In this new DPA action, the president has delegated DPA authority to the Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to use his loan authority to “create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore” America’s public health industrial base capabilities needed to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 outbreak and support resiliency in supply chains within the United States.
As a practical matter, this will mean the DFC will play an important supporting role in a much broader Trump Administration effort to bring jobs back to America while keeping all Americans safe.
Most broadly, the SNS 2.0 announced this week in Pennsylvania will provide a far more robust and intelligent, and a far less vulnerable, system to fight the China virus as well as future threats from CBRN and other emerging infectious diseases – all the while creating more good paying jobs for America. That’s a big win for the American people.