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White House unveils steps to stabilize U.S. supply chains affected by COVID-19

By Zarrin Ahmed
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White House unveils steps to stabilize U.S. supply chains affected by COVID-19
President Joe Biden holds a semiconductor chip before signing an order to boost supply chain production, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on February 24. File Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

June 8 (UPI) -- The White House announced Tuesday that it plans to use the Defense Production Act to manufacture more crucial medicines to fight COVID-19, as more than a year of the pandemic has significantly hindered supply chains.

The DPA, which dates back to the Cold War, gives President Joe Biden authority to direct industrial production for national defense purposes.

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The review found that decades of insufficient investment and public policy choices led to fragile supply chains. It also pointed to unfair trade practices by competing nations, low-cost labor and a focus on short-term profits in the private sector for "hollowing out" the U.S. industrial base and stifling wage growth.

Biden signed an executive order in February asking for a 100-day analysis to study supply chains for four critical product areas -- semiconductors, large capacity batteries, critical minerals and materials and pharmaceuticals.

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A report on the study's findings and new actions by Biden's administration were released on Tuesday.

"The administration is taking immediate action to address vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience with the launch of a new effort aimed at addressing near-term supply chain disruptions," the White House said in a statement.

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"It is crafting strategies for six industrial bases that underpin America's economic and national security, which will be completed within a year."

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"These efforts are critical because, as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have shown, structural weaknesses in both domestic and international supply chains threaten America's economic and national security," it added.

"Working together, industry, labor, the government and other stakeholders can chart a new path forward that emphasizes resilience and security, as well as broad-based growth and tackling the climate crisis."

Tuesday's report recommends the Health and Human Services Department select up to 100 drugs from the Food and Drug Administration's essential medicines list for advanced manufacturing. An initial $60 million has been allocated from the American Rescue Plan to fund the effort.

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To secure the supply chain for batteries, the Energy Department will pursue a National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, which the White House said will also create clean energy jobs.

Later this month, the department will host a roundtable to discuss the blueprint and add $17 billion to a manufacturing loan program, which will offer funds to manufacturers of vehicle battery cells to equip, expand or establish manufacturing facilities.

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For minerals, the Interior and Agriculture departments and Environmental Protection Agency will work to identify potential sites nationwide and review laws and regulations to facilitate greater production, the White House said.

The Agriculture Department will commit $4 billion to initiatives to diversify food supply chains, and the administration proposes to establish a Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

Later this month, the Labor Department will also announce more than $100 million in grants to support apprenticeship programs, officials said.

A year in pandemic: How COVID-19 changed the world

National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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