On March 18, President Trump issued an Executive Order invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), a tool that may help the administration combat the COVID-19 pandemic. With companies like 3M, GE, and others voluntarily ramping production of medical supplies to accomplish the nation’s significant needs, the president is yet to unleash his recently invoked authority. Still, the Executive Order activates far-reaching executive powers to prioritize production of key medical supplies, including protective medical equipment and ventilators. With the apparatus needed to deploy the DPA now in place, government contractors should prepare themselves for what may come.
By way of background, Congress passed the DPA during the Korean War to ensure sufficient production of materials deemed critical to the nation’s defense. Echoing economic controls imposed in World War II, the DPA gives the executive branch extraordinary powers, including the authority to require manufacturers to produce and prioritize certain items; allocate raw materials and facilities for the production of these items; and, in certain circumstances, even set price and wage controls.