Peters Examines Harm Caused by Shortages of U.S. Medical Supplies, Overreliance on Foreign Producers During Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today convened a hearing with supply chain, pharmaceutical, and medical experts on how the Trump Administration failed to anticipate shortages of critical drugs and medical supplies, and take actions to acquire needed supplies at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Peters discussed how overreliance on foreign sources for critical drugs and supplies, such as masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment, created a national security risk and cost lives. He also pressed for details on additional steps lawmakers can take to strengthen supply chain security and bolster domestic manufacturing of critical medical supplies to create jobs and ensure our nation is prepared for future crises. The hearing was the second in a series of oversight hearings Peters has convened to examine the federal government’s preparation for and response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite years of warnings about the dangers of our nation’s overreliance on foreign sources and manufacturers for critical medical supplies, our nation was still completely unprepared to acquire the masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators needed to treat the significant number of COVID patients, stop the spread, and save lives,” said Senator Peters in his opening statement.

Peters continued: “Instead of a coordinated federal effort to secure and direct supplies where they were needed most, the Trump Administration’s inaction forced states, and even individual hospitals, to bid against each other for limited protective gear. This forced our frontline health care workers to resort to wearing trash bags, snorkel masks, and other ineffective alternatives when they couldn’t get appropriate medical supplies. Access to sufficient PPE, like N95 respirators, face masks, gloves and gowns, could have helped save lives, including the nearly 4,000 health care workers who gave their lives on the front lines to fight this pandemic.”

Major missteps in our nation’s initial pandemic response by the previous Administration, such as a failure to ramp up production of PPE and other critical medical supplies through emergency contracts or fully invoking the Defense Production Act, resulted in severe shortages that put health care workers and the public at risk. The public health crisis has now taken the lives of more than 586,000 Americans and continues to cause economic hardships for many families and small businesses. 

To watch video of Senator Peters’ opening remarks, click here. For text of Peters’ opening remarks as prepared, click here.

To watch video of Senator Peters’ questions and closing, click here.

The hearing builds on Peters’ efforts to strengthen domestic manufacturing of critical medical supplies and conduct oversight of the federal Coronavirus response. His bipartisan legislation to strengthen efforts to encourage domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE) has advanced in the Senate. Following an investigation, Peters published a report in 2019 showing that American dependence on foreign sources of prescription drugs and medical supplies posed serious national security risks. He has also pushed legislation to facilitate investments in advanced manufacturing for critical drugs and medical supplies across the United States. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Peters repeatedly called for the Trump Administration to use the Defense Production Act to address shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies.