On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to address the national shortages of vital resources to combat the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Within this executive order, he invoked rights under the Defense Production Act of 1950. So, what is it?
The Defense Production Act was enacted on Sept. 8, 1950, by President Harry Truman, during the beginning of the Korean War. The premise of it was to create a way for the president to gain a measure of control within the civilian economy in the name of defending the nation. This was largely due to concerns about equipment and supplies during the Korean war. This act gave the president the ability to enforce things in the name of national security.
The act was created during the Korean War, mainly due to the lessons of World War II. It was during WWII that we saw a massive mobilization of the country to support the war efforts. This act ensured that President Truman could do the same without issue.
The act gives the president the broad authority to mandate that industries increase production of vital resources. It also allows the control of prices and wages. Other authorities included in the act involve the ability to settle labor disputes, real estate credit, and the ability to control contracts given to private organizations. When this act is invoked, the administration is required to submit an annual report to Congress.
With COVID-19 causing resource scarcity amid the pandemic, it was expected that President Trump would take this action.
The Center for Disease Control has been continually encouraging people to practice social distancing to prevent widespread critical cases. Without these measures, the results would be catastrophic, as we are seeing with the deaths mounting daily in Italy. One week ago, on March 12, 2020, the positive cases of COVID-19 were 1,663 for the United States.
It’s now over 10,000 cases with every U.S. state reporting incidents.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, concern has been increasing within the medical community. This is because, as a nation, we do not currently have the equipment to sustain critical patients nor the resources to treat them. The powers within this act will allow the president to swiftly order the production of more personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other vital resources to combat COVID-19.
It is anticipated that President Trump will quickly utilize the powers within the Defense Production Act to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19,” according to his executive order. He utilized this act once before in 2017 to provide specific technology within the space industrial base.
The Defense Production Act has been amended a number of times over the years. It now contains language that allows control in areas related to homeland security or emergency relief efforts. Many presidents have utilized this act throughout the last seventy years during times of need for increased defense capabilities or for emergency response.With this act, companies are absolutely required to prioritize contracts from the government and accept them, all in the name of national security or emergency.