Schneider Leads Colleagues Calling for “Supply Chain Czar” to Oversee Federal Response Medical Equipment Shortages Caused by COVID-19

April 14, 2020
Press Release

Today, Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10) led 24 House colleagues calling for the creation an emergency COVID-19 medical supply chain authority, or “supply chain czar,” with statutory authority to oversee the manufacturing and distribution of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other critical supplies.

In a letter to House and Senate Leadership urging they make the czar position a priority in any upcoming coronavirus relief packages, the Members of Congress write the role should have the “expressed goal of streamlining and expediting delivery of in-demand supplies, while also reducing or eliminating the inter-state bidding wars that are driving up prices.”

The Members of Congress point to price-gouging tactics by some suppliers, challenges facing manufacturers operating without federal direction, and insufficient supply of critical equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile as additional reasons why a supply chain czar is vital.

“Like so many of our governors, mayors and hospital and frontline workers, I am incredibly frustrated by the Administration’s convoluted, slow, and inexcusably political response to the severe shortages of PPE and other medical equipment facing our communities,” said Schneider, explaining why he led the letter. “Governors across the country have shown tremendous leadership, but the lack of clear direction from the White House is creating bidding wars between providers, states, and federal agencies, and wasting critical time and resources. We desperately need a singular, competent, and non-political supply chain authority to successfully coordinate our national response.”

Schneider previously requested Speaker Pelosi and House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone make a supply chain czar a priority in the next COVID-19 relief package in a letter sent on March 31.

The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider, Katherine Clarke, Angie Craig, Thomas R. Suozzi, Jan Schakowsky, Raúl M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jahana Hayes, Jim Cooper, Terri Sewell, Jamie Raskin, Grace F. Napolitano, Harley Rouda, Danny K. Davis, Cheri Bustos, Judy Chu, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Suzan DelBene, Ted Deutch, Seth Moulton, Kendra S. Horn, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, J. Luis Correa, Matt Cartwright, and David Trone.

 

Full Letter Text:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer,

As you consider legislative priorities in any upcoming stimulus packages to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge you include the creation of a singular emergency COVID-19 medical supply chain statutory authority (i.e., “supply chain czar”). This authority should establish centralized responsibility to oversee and direct the unprecedented nation-wide production, acquisition and distribution of medical equipment critical to COVID-19 response with the expressed goal of streamlining and expediting delivery of in-demand supplies, while also reducing or eliminating the inter-state bidding wars that are driving up prices.

Our hospitals and providers continue to suffer from a lack of critical equipment, namely ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), resulting in substandard care, unsafe work conditions, and increasingly critical staffing shortages. Similarly, essential employers, such as grocers, truck lines and essential manufacturers (including makers of desperately needed ventilators) need access to PPE and cleaning/sanitizing supplies to avoid supply chain disruptions of essential goods and ensure a safe environment for both employees and customers.

 

This scarcity of these supplies, devices and equipment has left states to compete with one another to meet demand thus driving up prices, as well as subjecting hospitals and essential employers to price-gouging tactics from suppliers and charlatans looking to profit off the pandemic. Manufacturers are similarly left to decide between competing orders with minimal federal direction, possible fraudulent orders, and limited to no ability to increase production without the necessary access to subassemblies and component parts.

Unfortunately, the allocation of life-saving equipment and supplies has been uncoordinated and regrettably, at times, politicized. The Strategic National Stockpile has a grossly insufficient supply of ventilators and PPE, and further exacerbating the problem, that supply has to date not been appropriately allocated to states and localities based on severity of need.

We urge you to immediately remedy this situation by legislating a supply chain director, or “czar”, with statutory authority to oversee the manufacturing and distribution of ventilators, PPE, and other critical supplies. The director should work to eliminate complexity for all links in the supply chain, including states, hospitals, manufacturers, federal agencies, and essential employers. Such authorities could include, but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Comprehensively survey states, hospitals, and essential employers, using existing resources and reporting where possible, to determine need of critical supplies, including the creation of a national database of current hospital capacity and supplies;
  • Mandate, facilitate and enforce sufficient production levels under the Defense Production Act, particularly for components and raw materials;
  • Become the centralized procurer of critical supplies, using the centralized authority and purchasing power to ensure an end to rampant price-gouging in the marketplace, including in the transportation of critical medical supplies;
  • Distribute supplies based on most urgent need, at the discretion of the czar;
  • Report daily supply gaps and progress made in closing the gaps.

Thank you for your rapid response to this ongoing pandemic. We appreciate your timely and close consideration of this urgent matter.

 

Sincerely,