Despite repeated calls, Trump delayed invoking the Defense Production Act and lagged in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
The federal government's response to the coronavirus has been widely criticized for not acting in due time, dragging its feet in imposing stricter social distancing rules and mismanaging necessary equipment. In six months of polling on the virus, Trump's approval for his stewardship on the pandemic reached as low as 33%, according to an ABC/IPSOS poll.
"I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst-case scenario in the future. Hopefully, there will be no need," Trump had tweeted on March 19, a day after invoking the Act.
But for months after, experts said it wasn't being used to its full potential as America recorded the highest number of global cases. "What the federal government has not done yet is use the DPA to create a permanent, sustainable, redundant, domestic supply chain for all things pandemic: testing, swabs, N95 masks, etc.," Jamie Baker, a former legal adviser to the National Security Council and a professor of national security law told the New York Times.
The Act gives powers designed to ensure the availability of essential materials by allowing the government to tell private businesses when and how to fulfill orders for those goods. Over the years, its scope has been expanded from military needs to natural hazards, terrorist attacks, and other national emergencies.
For instance, in 2001, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush invoked the law during an energy crisis in California, affecting electricity and natural gas companies. It was also invoked during the Iraq War and in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico.