On Saturday, April 11, 2020, the headquarter of the US Department of Defense (DoD), the Pentagon announced that it would be exercising its special power under the Defense Production Act to boost the supply of N95 masks.
With the new development of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, which has the highest number of virus infection cases as well as fatal rates in the world, the country is facing a shortage of masks for protecting healthcare professionals and medical personnel.
Defense Act to Produce Masks
In a very rare case, the Defense Production Act (DPA), which was approved in 1950, had been recently invoked by the US administration in an attempt to increase the production of masks amid such miserable times due to the coronavirus outbreak. Through this Defense Act, the president can exercise its power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.
The Pentagon is using the Act, which was enacted related to the Korean War of the 1950s, for the first time to fight the widespread virus epidemic after having been approved from a White House task force late Friday.
The DoD would be spending $133 million to increase N95 mask production by over 39 million over the next 90 days from the US domestic companies, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews said in a statement. Responding to a question, he said the Pentagon would be sharing the news about the companies that involved in the contracts with DoD in some days.
American military made the announcement soon after US President, Donald Trump last week declared that he would be invoking the DPA in order to acquire additional N95 masks from the US-based companies.
US Companies for Masks Production
Last week, Trump had announced to stop the exports of the US-produced masks to other countries including Canada and some Latin American countries. Among the domestic companies, 3M Co. (3M) is the key supplier of masks in the US. Responding to the new move, Canadian officials had criticized Trump’s policies to ban the 3M export of N95 respirator masks.
Earlier this week, 3M entered a contract with the White House to import 166.5 million N95 masks over the next three months for the use of medical personnel and healthcare workers in the US. Citing the company’s current efforts of producing 35 million N95 respirators per month for the US government, Trump said on Friday, “3M is doing a great job.”
Last month, Trump had issued orders, by invoking the Act, to some key domestic industries such as General Motors Co. (GM) to build ventilators for the treatment of the severely sick coronavirus patients. GM, a US-based automobile company, had agreed to start building ventilators by mid-April.
Reuters reported, “The US Health and Human Services Department awarded GM a contract for $489 million to produce 30,000 ventilators, while it also announced a $646.7 million contract given to Dutch health technology company Philips to produce 43,000 ventilators.”
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