The Defense Production Act and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Pamela Berkowsky
Pamela Berkowsky

For almost 30 years, Pamela Berkowsky has worked in defense and defense-related fields. She is a former federal and state government official with significant expertise in disaster preparedness and response. As Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Civil Support, she was the Department of Defense liaison to the National Security Council and federal, state and local agencies on domestic terrorism preparedness and consequence management; she also testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on these matters. Ms. Pamela Berkowsky has recently been involved with a global NGO engaged in COVID-19 response efforts in the Caribbean and has closely monitored the US pandemic response at the federal, state, and local levels.

One of the areas of greatest interest to her has been the Trump Administration’s slow embrace of the Defense Production Act (DPA), a Korean War era law designed to provide the federal government with the authority to leverage the private sector in a range of emergencies including war, hurricanes and terrorism response. The DPA authorizes the President to direct private companies to prioritize government contracts and orders deemed necessary for the national defense as a means of ensuring that the private sector produces the quantities of goods required to meet a war effort or national emergency. Though the Trump Administration hesitated initially to leverage the DPA in response to the pandemic, the President eventually invoked it to order General Motors to produce ventilators and N95 masks. He has since used the authority to prevent the hoarding of critical supplies, control the export of personal protective equipment, maintain the meat & poultry supply and increase the domestic production capacity of essential health supplies. While the CARES Act identified $1B for DPS purchases by DOD, the increase in the number of coronavirus cases and the increased use of the DPA have also put a spotlight on the need for increased transparency in the DPA-related federal procurement process.

Written by

Pamela Berkowsky is a senior executive defense consultant with the South Florida Defense Alliance and president of the Blue Sapphire Strategies advisory firm.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store