Biden Invokes Cold War-Era Law to Boost Medical Supplies

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
November 27, 2023Executive Branch

President Joe Biden on Monday invoked a Cold War-era measure aimed at boosting investment in U.S. manufacturing of medicines and medical supplies necessary for national defense.

President Biden used the first meeting of his supply chain resilience council to boast about his administration’s efforts to improve supply chains upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and help bring inflation under control but acknowledged more work needs to be done.

“We know that prices are still too high for too many things, that times are still too tough for too many families,” President Biden said. “But we’ve made progress.”

The announcement came as part of a series of 30 measures the Biden administration is introducing to reinforce the nation’s industrial supply chains amid record inflation and an uncertain economic outlook.

The White House issued a statement in which it said that the administration will authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to use powers under the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to commission investments in essential medicines.

The measures will also include investments in “medical countermeasures,” which specifically pertain to medicines for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases related to chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attacks.

President Biden has been under intense scrutiny over his handling of the economy and inflation, with his approval ratings having dropped significantly in recent months.

The measures are part of a strategy to boost the economy ahead of the 2024 presidential election, for which the president is seeking reelection.

In an effort to prove to his voter base that he is tackling inflation and a failing economy, President Biden held the first meeting of a new White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience on Nov. 27.

Lael Brainard, who heads Biden’s National Economic Council, told reporters on a conference call that supply chain stress had been reduced from record highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that more work was still to be done.

During the pandemic, the United States was heavily impacted by supply chain issues and export restrictions—much of it due to heavy reliance on Chinese imports.

As of December 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that in excess of 120 medicines were unavailable in the United States due to shortages, Statnews reported at the time.

This figure was around three times higher than pre-pandemic levels and remains at around the same level, according to current figures from the FDA.

The Cold-War-era measure comes after President Biden implemented other war-time-era measures to fund more domestic manufacturing of electric heat pumps.

According to a recent report by Bloomberg, these are intended to mitigate the impact of climate change and enhance domestic security, with the U.S. Energy Department claiming that electric heat pumps are a greener alternative to conventional furnaces.

Earlier this month, the Department announced it was using the 1950s Defense Production Act to obtain investment of around $170 million for more than half a dozen programs nationwide.

These programs are aimed at producing the heat pumps and associated components required to reduce the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels and boost energy independence, the Department said.

Reuters contributed to this article.

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