In total, the president has signed 10 executive orders intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness” document, the Biden administration will use the Defense Production Act to “fill any distribution gaps, including with respect to any needed refrigeration, transportation, or storage facilities.”
Biden has also moved to create a centralized federal approach to virus testing while ramping up the U.S. government’s involvement in vaccine distribution.
“President Biden is using tools that have been sitting in the toolbox since the pandemic started and, indeed, since the 1950s — but were not leveraged in earnest under the previous Administration,” said Alex Hontos, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney.
The DPA will give Biden “broad authority to order goods and services,” Hontos said. It will also enable the administration to prioritize the production of goods such as vaccines, respirators and personal protective equipment. The law also will allow the administration to make loan guarantees and offer other incentives to boost industrial capacity.
One of the Defense Production Act’s core advantages is the speed it offers the president. The fact that it does not require Biden to get Congressional support is notable, given that Congress is in transition, contemplating impeachment and holding hearings on new nominees. The DPA is “a good way for the Administration to organize the pandemic response without getting bogged down on the Hill,” Hontos said. “I expect the Biden Administration to use the DPA extensively.”