Add another piece of legislation that calls for U.S.-made production of personal protective equipment (PPE) under consideration in Congress, joining a growing chorus around the critical supply-chain issue.
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation that will strengthen efforts to onshore production of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the United States by requiring the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE.
The senators said reshoring production will ensure American workers, students, health care professionals and more have the PPE they need as the economy continues to reopen. Domestic production of PPE supplies will also create manufacturing American jobs.
“The American people should not have to rely so heavily on foreign countries for personal protective equipment and that’s why we must bring PPE production back to our shores,” Portman said. “When I talk to PPE manufacturers about re-shoring this production to America, the number one thing I hear about is the need for long-term contracts. Multi-year contracts give producers the certainty to know that their investment in the United States will be worth it because the government will be there to buy the PPE they produce. By re-shoring production of PPE, we can continue to support a safe and effective reopening of our schools, workplaces and the economy and I urge my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation.”
Peters, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the country’s dependence on foreign manufacturers for PPE, such as masks, gloves and respirators, present a national security risk.
“I raised concerns about this problem in a report last year and the shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic only underscore the need to incentivize American manufacturers to produce these critical supplies in the United States,” Peters said. “Workers and companies in Michigan and across the country know how to manufacture great products and this bipartisan bill will help provide certainty for American companies to create jobs, make PPE and strengthen our ability to respond to this and future pandemics.”
Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organization (NCTO), said the Make PPE in America Act will help onshore critical PPE production.
“By using the purchasing power of the federal government to issue long-term contracts to American companies and its workforce, this legislation will ensure vital investment in the United States for years to come, while helping our nation become self-sufficient in lifesaving PPE materials,” Glas said.
Last month, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Protecting American Heroes Act to help increase the U.S. stockpile of PPE and allow for a quick ramp-up of American production in any future emergency.
Brown’s bill focuses on strengthening the Strategic National Stockpile of critical emergency medical supplies like PPE. It would require all supplies in the stockpile to be produced in the U.S., with certain exceptions based on availability and require domestic producers that manufacture supplies to give advance notice before they go out of business.
In the House, Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced the American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act. This bipartisan legislation is meant to help end the U.S. reliance on Chinese-made PPE and ensure that hospitals and frontline healthcare workers have access to a plentiful supply of high-quality American-made PPE.
In May, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the COVID-19 Accountability Act that called for a domestic purchasing requirement of PPE for the Strategic National Stockpile. Earlier this month, he introduced the U.S. MADE Act, which also called for strict purchasing requirements of PPE and a manufacturing production tax credit to further spur domestic manufacturing and job creation.
“There is overwhelming support in Congress to reshore PPE production and safeguard our public health, which we wholeheartedly support,” Glas said. “While several pieces of legislation overlap in various ways, many emphasize various areas of this complex puzzle that all need to be addressed.”
Steven Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), said there’s clearly an appetite in Congress to address the PPE supply-chain failures exposed during the pandemic.
“Congress is very interested in seeing more of this made in the United States, not only to create jobs and support manufacturing, but also to enable America’s readiness,” Lamar said. “There’s also a lot of frustration over how the response has been so far. Despite the shortages, we’ve been able to get product from around the world. Our industry has also had a real Rosie the Riveter moment and companies have pivoted to make product that they never made before.”
He said the challenge will be how to equip the country to be able to maintain this production momentum over the long term, and what’s needed is a domestic preference requirement paired with long-term contracting, which Lamar said is “absolutely critical” because it would create a clear and consistent “demand signal” that allows for companies to invest in equipment and personnel.
As to whether a bill will come to fruition, he described Congress as making a PPE “stew” that will cook up a larger piece legislation folding in ingredients from the various bills.
“The real question is will that opportunity present itself,” Lamar added. “Congress has a lot on its plate right now” mostly related to the Covid crisis, meaning the Made in USA PPE issues could make it in—or not.