President Donald Trump on March 18th said he was invoking the Defense of Production Act (DPA) to make up for the nation’s shortcoming in critical medical supplies and equipment, only to renege on that declaration three days later. He claimed that U.S. companies had “stepped up” production on their own. Many were skeptical that the real reason Trump declined to invoke the DPA was not because private companies were meeting production demand but because organized business interests were aggressively lobbying the administration to avoid using the extraordinary federal power. The latter notion has been further supported by a State Department email obtained by Foreign Policy. It shows the administration has been desperately trying to purchase emergency medical equipment from foreign countries.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, the DPA imbues the president with broad authority to mobilize – or even coerce – the private sector to manufacture emergency materials for the purposes of America’s national defense and national security, including in cases of natural or man-caused disasters.
When asked why he hadn’t invoked the DPA during a March 21 press conference, President Trump said it was unnecessary because “we have so many companies making so many products – every product that you mentioned, plus ventilators and everything else” without government prompting.
“We have car companies – without having to use the act. If I don’t have to use – we have the act to use in case we need it. But we have so many things being made right now by so many – they’ve just stepped up,” Trump declared.
But while Trump was claiming that private sector companies were voluntarily filling the demand to produce emergency medical equipment, the State Department was telling its foreign bureaus to scour the globe (“minus Moscow”) to see if any countries would be willing to sell the same equipment to the United States.
“Trump’s third-ranking diplomat, David Hale, has asked all bureaus to report on what foreign countries would be able to sell ‘critical medical supplies and equipment’ to the United States, according to an internal State Department email sent to officials at embassies across Europe and Eurasia on March 22,” the report stated.
According to Foreign Policy, the email said that the U.S. “could seek to purchase many of these items in the hundreds of millions with purchases of higher end equipment such as ventilators in the hundreds of thousands.”
The report also stated that the State Department’s efforts revealed the U.S. to have inversed its position in the global scheme regarding foreign aid.
“Several diplomatic sources familiar with the matter say this new directive reflects a sharp reversal in traditional U.S. foreign-policy posture, as the State Department is now calling for help from countries including those the United States has delivered vital foreign assistance to for years,” the report said.
“The email comes from an official at the Office of U.S. Assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia—an office that under normal circumstances coordinates delivering U.S. aid and assistance to countries in Europe and Eurasia, not the other way around.”
[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.]