WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined several of his committee colleagues in a letter calling for answers from the Administration about the Strategic National Stockpile, which is maintained by the federal government to rapidly distribute personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies during public health emergencies. U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) joined Peters in sending the letter.
“Recent reports indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to replenish the Stockpile’s depleted reserves, but the agency has not provided adequate transparency on what the Stockpile currently holds or what targets are for supplies going forward,” wrote the Senators. “The administration more broadly has failed to provide requested information about how personal protective equipment and other critical supplies are being prioritized and distributed, including how the administration is balancing current needs on the ground with stocking up on supplies for the future.”
Citing the continued growth in Coronavirus cases in the U.S., the Senators highlighted the importance of state and local governments knowing what medical supplies may be available from the Strategic National Stockpile to aide in their public health efforts.
The Senators are seeking answers from the Department of Health and Human Services on the current contents of the Strategic National Stockpile, plans to restock it while also providing necessary supplies to states, use of the Defense Production Act to address supply needs, and how the Administration will make decisions about Strategic National Stockpile distribution.
The letter follows a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee oversight hearing on the Strategic National Stockpile earlier this week, in which Senator Peters questioned the witnesses on the United States’ overreliance on foreign manufacturers for medical supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic and its implications for America’s national security.
The Senators’ letter is copied below and available here.
June 26, 2020
The Honorable Alex Azar
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
RE: Replenishment of the Strategic National Stockpile
Dear Secretary Azar,
We write to seek information about ongoing efforts to increase supplies available in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) as the country continues to grapple with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent reports indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to replenish the Stockpile’s depleted reserves, but the agency has not provided adequate transparency on what the Stockpile currently holds or what targets are for supplies going forward. The administration more broadly has failed to provide requested information about how personal protective equipment and other critical supplies are being prioritized and distributed, including how the administration is balancing current needs on the ground with stocking up on supplies for the future. With COVID-19 cases increasing in dozens of states and widespread concerns about a second wave later this year, your department must provide more information about what supplies exist and what the country will need so that states know what they should expect from the federal government in the months ahead. Without this critical information, it is impossible for state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to plan. Delays in action and information sharing could lead to continued shortages of lifesaving personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
To that end, we request your expeditious response to the following questions:
- What are the current quantities of personal protective equipment in the SNS available for distribution?
- What is HHS’s plan for restocking on supplies that were depleted in the first six months of 2020? Please include target dates and quantities for specific categories of supplies required to safely respond to COVID-19 including, but not limited to, N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, nitrile gloves, and other protective clothing, as well as ventilators and pharmaceuticals.
- How is HHS balancing the need to supply those currently facing immediate deficiencies of personal protective equipment and medical supplies with the requirement to prepare for a potential future increase in infections?
- How is HHS utilizing the Defense Production Act to ensure that targets for restocking the SNS are met?
- Going forward, how will HHS and the Unified Coordination Group (UCG) determine which jurisdictions will receive PPE from the SNS? Specifically, what factors will determine the distribution formula from the SNS?
Thank you for addressing these inquiries.