Since the height of the pandemic, Governor Cuomo has pleaded with the federal government to expand its use of the Defense Production Act.

The current version of the law allows the president to direct private companies to prioritize orders from the federal government. In other words, if PPE masks are needed, the DPA can order a company to stop making widgets, and instead make masks.  

What You Need To Know

  • The DPA gives the president significant emergency authority to control domestic industries

  • According the Council on Foreign Relations, the DPA passed in September 1950 at the start of the Korean War. It was modelled on the War Powers Acts of 1941 and 1942, which gave President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sweeping authority to control the domestic economy during World War II

  • Governor Cuomo has pleaded with the federal government to expand its use of the DPA to produce more PPE and ventilators in the fight against COVID-19

  • Without an Act of Congress, states cannot use the DPA

Ben Smilowitz, founder and executive director of Disaster Accountability Project began to think about whether states could re-interpret the DPA within their own borders.

"States are struggling to tread water on PPE supplies and costs,” according to Smilowitz. "Congress must immediately throw states a life raft by allowing them to increase in-state production and buy PPE on priority."

During the Republican National Convention, both Vice President Pence and Ivanka Trump claimed that the president “marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset." Their statements have been widely characterized as false. At one point in March, President Trump likened the idea of using the DPA to a government takeover of companies.

While the president did finally use the DPA to force General Motors to make ventilators, it was only after doctors, governors, and public health experts implored him to use it.

“If the DPA is critical, why not let governors leverage in their own states, asked Smilowitz on Capital Tonight. “If dozens of governors used it, states would pay less for goods. National supplies would go up, and costs would go down for consumers.”

“If three dozen governors use this right now, it would increase supply, lower prices, and save lives,” continued Smilowitz.