The Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of re-implementing the Defense Production Act. Originally enacted during the Korean War, the Act essentially empowers the President to control the means of production—the idea being that it would be in the interest of the nation's defense to force private manufacturers to focus their production efforts on things that would benefit the country in a time of tenuous resources.
A White House official confirmed that the administration was exploring the use of the law to spur manufacturing of protective gear. Both the DHS official and the White House requested anonymity to discuss the issue.
“Let’s say ‘Company A’ makes a multitude of respiratory masks but they spend 80% of their assembly lines on masks that painters wear and only 20% on the N95,” the White House official said. “We will have the ability to tell corporations, ‘No, you change your production line so it is now 80% of the N95 masks and 20% of the other.’”
“It allows you to basically direct things happening that need to get done,” the official added.
In other words, it's precisely the kind of government-controlled economic planning that Republicans have warned would happen under a Democratic-Socialist administration. Except in this case, it's good. Because they're the ones doing it.
U.S. mulls using sweeping powers to ramp up production of coronavirus protective gear [Ted Hesson and Alexandra Alper / Reuters]