Hon. James E. Baker Explains the Defense Production Act for The New York Times
How the Defense Production Act Could Yield More Masks, Ventilators and Tests
(The New York Times | March 21, 2020) President Trump issued an executive order this week invoking the Defense Production Act to battle the coronavirus pandemic, but his advisers have resisted making aggressive use of the law to mobilize private industry.
Mr. Trump has given mixed signals about whether his administration has actually used the law at all to spur the production of scarce and necessary items like ventilators; testing kits; and protective masks, gloves, and gowns.
Here is an explanation of the law.
What is the Defense Production Act?
It is a law that permits the federal government to impose some control over private-sector industry to ensure the production of material that is deemed necessary for national defense. It traces back to the Korean War.
Congress enacted it with military necessities like steel and tanks in mind, but lawmakers expanded it after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to cover other areas, including public health and safety. It was reauthorized last year until 2025.
Notably, an existing government panel created under the law, the Defense Production Act Committee — made up of officials from various agencies — already has a process and a system in place to implement it.
“If I were advising the president, I would say, ‘Mr. President you have a lot more tools available under the D.P.A. than are being used. Moreover, some of the tools have lead times,’” said Jamie E. Baker, a former legal adviser to the National Security Council and a professor of national security law at Syracuse University.
He added: “And, if these tools are being used, then the government should be more transparent in their use so that the public and our first responders are aware that help is on the way” …
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