President Biden invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act in attempt to reduce the shortage of baby formula. With the declaration came the ability to utilize Department of Defense resources to combat the dwindling supply.
With parents facing the dire realities of the lack of formula on shelves, the delivery by U.S. Military was met with heartfelt gratitude and sighs of relief. The shortage appears to be linked to a formula ingredient plant in Michigan closing its doors in February during an investigation after two infant deaths. The Federal Department of Agriculture warned consumers not to use the powdered formula from the facility after the deaths and bacterial infections appeared to be linked to its ingredients.
Though the company just reached a deal with the FDA to reopen its doors and resume operations, it could take upwards of two months for the formula to hit the store shelves. With this in mind, the president launched "Operation Fly Formula."
According to the White House statement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are to use Department of Defense (DOD) commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula that meet U.S. health and safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster. DOD will use its contracts with commercial air cargo lines, as it did to move materials during the early months of the COVID pandemic, to transport products from manufacturing facilities abroad that have met Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety standards. Bypassing regular air freighting routes will speed up the importation and distribution of formula and serve as an immediate support as manufacturers continue to ramp up production.
On Sunday May 22, 2022, the first plane of many arrived in Indianapolis with 39 tons of baby formula from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Biden Administration hopes these emergency flights will reduce the shortage by at least half, according to the White House.
In a press conference on the same day, it was confirmed that cargo contained enough formula for over a half a million bottles. The formula was manufactured in an FDA approved facility and is intended to go to those who need it the most first. The press secretary stated that this undertaking would normally take around two weeks but was accomplished within three days.
The plane had enough baby formula to ease around 15% of the national shortage, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
On the same day as the delivery from Ramstein, President Biden announced a second operation to get formula on the shelves. The press release indicated the military plane on this mission would bring the baby formula to Washington D.C and carried enough to make a million 8oz bottles. The White House also stated the formula shipment would then be transported to a Nestlé facility in Pennsylvania. The DOD is contracting with FedEx Express to transport the shipment via its integrated air and ground network with more details to follow.
The Biden Administration has promised that this is the first in a series of initiatives to stand in the gap during the formula shortage.