The Defense Production Act will be used for the first time to secure critical supplies for the coronavirus fight on Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor announced on CNN.
"We're actually going to use the DPA for the first time today," he said, adding, "There's some test kits we need to get our hands on. We're going to insert some language into these mass contracts that we have for the 500 million masks."
Gaynor told John Berman on CNN's "New Day" that the DPA would be used to obtain roughly 60,000 test kits. "We're going to use it, we're going to use it when we need it, and we're going to use it today," he said.
The DPA gives the federal government the power to direct companies to prioritize production to meet US national defense demands.
President Donald Trump, facing pressure from lawmakers and others, tweeted on March 18 that he had signed the Defense Production Act, "should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario."
The president has until now been unwilling to use the DPA. He and and other members of the coronavirus task force have suggested that companies are stepping up to offer supplies without the strong hand of the government forcing them to do so.
Trump continues to signal that he does not intend to fully use the DPA.
US associations representing doctors, nurses, and hospitals recently sent a letter to the president Saturday that said that "America's hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses urge you to immediately use the DPA."
The letter said this was necessary "to increase the domestic production of medical supplies and equipment that hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and all front line providers so desperately need."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Monday that "we need the federal government to use the Defense Production Act so that we can get the medical supplies we desperately need," adding, "We can't just wait for companies to come forward with offers and hope they will."
"This is a national emergency," Cuomo said as New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, reports more than 20,000 coronavirus cases.