Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) are urging the COVID-19 Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) to prioritize the procurement of American-made PPE, and to consider comprehensive measures to incentivize the reshoring of additional PPE production back to the United States. JATF was created to synchronize and support execution of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 response to interagency requests for medical resources involving the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Health and Human Services, and other agencies.
“We strongly urge you to give full preference to items made at least in part in the U.S. over those that are wholly made abroad,” the senators wrote in a letter to Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and head of the JATF. “These orders are even more critical to the manufacturing sector at this time. Many domestic producers have submitted proposals with both full, or substantially, domestic production chains, and we urge the Department in this contract review process to give all these offers the fullest consideration possible.”
The senators urged JATF to incentivize American manufacturing of PPE by:
In addition to Brown and Portman, the letter was also signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Todd Young (R-IN), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mike Braun (R-IN),
A copy of Brown and Portman’s letter can be read here and below.
Dear Under Secretary Lord:
Thank you for your efforts thus far to increase domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE). As head of the new Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF), we ask you to continue to prioritize the procurement of American-made PPE and pursue more comprehensive measures to incentivize the reshoring of additional PPE production back to the United States. We believe this can be done in three ways.
First, strong domestic content rules – such as the Berry Amendment – are a proven model for ensuring essential long-term investment in the PPE supply chain in the United States. Applying this domestic sourcing requirement to PPE purchases is critical to helping build a strong domestic supply chain now and into the foreseeable future.
While we were concerned to see the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) issue a Domestic Non-Availability Determination (DNAD) — which provides the option to waive Berry Amendment requirements — for procurements over the next 90 days, we understand that DLA’s immediate demand for hospital gowns and PPE may exceed the capacity of Berry Amendment-compliant U.S. producers. Yet, there are still U.S. companies who are able to produce PPE using varying amounts of American content. We believe DLA and the JATF must give priority consideration to all domestic offers to supply PPE product to the United States government.
Despite the DNAD, we believe that PPE, with value added in the United States should receive preference over entirely foreign-made PPE and urge in the contract review process that you reward those companies and workers in the United States to every extent possible. We were pleased that DLA recently amended the solicitation to take into consideration concerns raised by domestic producers by prioritizing Berry Amendment-compliant offers. We want to underscore the importance of ensuring that all DLA procurements encourage, rather than undercut, initiatives to develop a U.S.-based PPE supply chain.
To that end, we urge DLA to maximize all procurement of Berry Amendment-compliant hospital gowns and masks going forward. When Berry-compliant items are exhausted, we ask that you maximize procurement of products that have the next-highest U.S. content level. We strongly urge you to give full preference to items made at least in part in the U.S. over those that are wholly made abroad. These orders are even more critical to the manufacturing sector at this time. Many domestic producers have submitted proposals with both full, or substantially, domestic production chains, and we urge the Department in this contract review process to give all these offers the fullest consideration possible.
Second, we must think long term. Unfortunately, the pandemic will not have ended after 90 days, and we know that our country must be prepared for similar crises in the future. In order to achieve that, the Task Force must send a strong, and consistent, demand signal to American industry so as to incentivize the re-shoring of PPE production to the United States. Supply chains that were created in a matter of days will disappear if we do not put the long-term structures in place that will help realize significant investment in the United States. Therefore, we urge the JATF to ensure any future PPE procurement includes long-term contracts and minimizes the use of DNADs. Applying such a strategic approach will provide U.S. producers sufficient time and certainty to expand existing production or bring new production online.
Third, the administration should use the full range of powerful authorities provided in the Defense Production Act (DPA) which it has already triggered to bolster American manufacturers’ ability to produce urgently needed medical equipment and supplies. If the DPA loan and purchase authorities recently delegated to the International Development Finance Corporation prove effective for PPE re-shoring efforts, they should also be used to bolster such domestic capacity.
Made-in-America PPE is absolutely vital to the success of our pandemic response. We thank you for your leadership during this time of crisis and look forward to working with you to ensure the expansion of PPE manufacturing capacity in the United States of America.