By the Hon. James E. Baker
(The New York Times | April 3, 2020) Every Marine knows better than to pull a knife in a gunfight. But so far, that appears to be the federal government’s approach to battling Covid-19. The president has “invoked” the Defense Production Act, but the government has not used the full authority of the act. There is a difference between invoking a law and using it, just as there is a difference between talk and action.
Governors and health officials tell us that there is a profound gap between the protective equipment, hospital equipment and testing resources that are needed (and will be needed) and what is available (or in the pipeline). Bill Gates reminds us that we will need to produce millions, perhaps billions, of doses of vaccine in 12 to 18 months. This isn’t a passing crisis; we will need more of everything in two months, six months and maybe years.
Don’t let debate over the details of General Motors’ and Ventec’s honorable effort to build more ventilators hide the bottom line: The federal government has all the authority it needs to close the supply gap, allocate resources among states, and prepare for the production and distribution of the vaccine to come. Until the federal government demonstrates — with statistics, contracts and timelines — that the gap is closed and the vaccine pipeline is ready, we should ask: Why isn’t the government bringing its full arsenal to the fight? …