Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., threw his support behind the “National Manufacturing Guard Act” from U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
Supporters of the proposal, which also include U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Maggie Hassan, D-NH, stress that it will “invest $1 billion over five years in the ability of the U.S. government to mitigate future supply chain emergencies.”
The bill would also create the Office of Supply Chain Preparedness in the U.S. Commerce Department that “would be responsible for preparing for future crises that would threaten our ability to produce or obtain critical resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE)” and would be “equipped with the National Manufacturing Guard, a reserve force of manufacturing and supply chain experts.”
Rubio’s office showcased what the National Manufacturing Guard would entail.
“Members of the National Manufacturing Guard will train to increase the supply of critical resources in an emergency scenario, and can be activated to full-time service in a future emergency. The bill would also establish a Supply Chain Data Exchange, to enable the Department of Commerce to partner with private industry to gain insight into supply chain vulnerabilities, and a Manufacturing Corps, an apprenticeship program to bolster the manufacturing workforce with a particular focus on underrepresented groups,” Rubio’s office noted. “The Office of Supply Chain Preparedness will be supported by a Supply Chain Advisory Council with representation from relevant government agencies, state and local governments, labor organizations, experts from industry and academia, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, and the Manufacturing USA Institutes, groups who were all instrumental in managing the supply chain response to COVID-19. With input from these stakeholders, the office will coordinate a collaborative all-of-America response towards our next crisis.”
The backers of the bill weighed in on the proposal on Friday.
“In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw states, local governments, and businesses competing for scarce resources – like N95 masks and other personal protective equipment – especially those with supply chains controlled by the government of China,” Coons said. “We must be prepared for future supply chain disruptions with a coordinated, strategic approach for collaborating with the private sector. This bipartisan bill would establish those capabilities and ensure that American supply chains are more resilient to future threats.”
“The pandemic made it impossible to ignore the vulnerability of America’s supply chains and the structural deficiencies underlying our productive capacity,” Rubio said. “We cannot afford to be caught off guard again. Congress must take action to address our nation’s critical manufacturing and supply chain-related shortcomings, particularly in sectors dominated by China. This legislation would both strengthen our response to supply chain crises and provide dignified work by training and maintaining a ready force of engineers, mechanics, and logistics experts at American companies and in government.”
“The pandemic has tested our domestic manufacturing capabilities and revealed that our supply chains are not up to producing all of the products that our country needs in an emergency,” Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation would identify and evaluate supply chain and manufacturing vulnerabilities, and establish a National Manufacturing Guard to help strengthen U.S. supply chains, which in turn will help reduce our reliance on China for critical supplies and better prepare our country for future public health emergencies.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the vulnerabilities within our supply chains for everyday goods, lifesaving drugs, and medical equipment,” Cornyn said. “This legislation would ensure we have the resources and infrastructure in place ahead of a future public health emergency.”
The American Small Manufacturers Coalition, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the National Defense Industrial Association and Intelligent Manufacturing Systems International are all backing the proposal.
Coons’ bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Friday. So far, there is no counterpart in the U.S. House.
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