Durbin Discusses DOD Coronavirus Response With Defense Secretary Esper

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, today spoke with Defense Secretary Mark Esper to discuss the military’s coronavirus response efforts, including today’s action by the President to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA). Durbin urged the President to invoke the DPA in order to help address widespread shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, diagnostic test kits, and other medical supplies needed to treat and protect health care providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.  Durbin also discussed the Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to deploy two hospital ships on the East and West Coasts, which will help by taking non-coronavirus patients from hospitals to relieve workload.

“Americans need the Department of Defense involved in our effort to address this pandemic head-on. This is a whole-of-government, all hands on deck approach. The decisions made by Secretary Esper and his Department will help assist States in need of medical resources, like personal protective equipment and ventilators,” Durbin said.

The Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) authorizes the President to strengthen domestic manufacturing capacity and supply in extraordinary circumstances, and to direct the production by private sector firms of critical manufactured goods to meet urgent national security needs.  Congress amended DPA in 2009 to explicitly extend those authorities to support domestic preparedness and response to national emergencies, like the coronavirus pandemic.