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February 25, 2021 5:00 PM, EST

Biden Orders USDOT to Review Supply Chain

Joe BidenPresident Joe Biden pauses after signing an executive order relating to U.S. supply chains on Feb. 24 (Evan Vucci/AP)

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President Joe Biden has directed the Department of Transportation to conduct a review of the nation’s supply chain in the wake of challenges that arose during the earlier days of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an executive order signed Feb. 24, Biden asks the agency to conduct an in-depth review of the supply chain within its jurisdiction, and to collaborate with the department’s subagencies to compile a report for the White House detailing key components of the commercial industrial base.

In particular, Biden seeks information on how vulnerabilities across the enterprise may have contributed to delays in moving supplies during some of the most difficult times of the pandemic, including a shortfall of personal protective equipment for medical workers and first responders, as well as essential supplies across the commercial sector.

“The American people should never face shortages in the goods and services they rely on, whether that’s their car or their prescription medicines or the food at the local grocery store,” Biden said Feb. 24. “And remember, the shortages in [personal protection equipment] during this pandemic — that meant we didn’t have the masks; we didn’t have gowns or gloves to protect our frontline health workers.”

Additionally, the order requires other agencies to produce a review within 100 days of supply chains linked to high-capacity batteries related to electric vehicles, critical rare earth minerals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Agencies also are tasked with identifying risks in semiconductor manufacturing.

These reviews must also calculate potential risks to supply chains associated with climate change, an issue the Biden White House continues to champion. As Biden explained, “This [executive order] is about making sure the United States can meet every challenge we face in this new era — pandemics, but also in defense, cybersecurity, climate change and so much more.”

The White House further emphasized the reviews stemming from the executive order would be used to guide operations during national emergencies, as well as reinforce the country’s response to threats from severe weather events. According to the executive order, “Resilient American supply chains will revitalize and rebuild domestic manufacturing capacity, maintain America’s competitive edge in research and development, and create well-paying jobs. They will also support small businesses, promote prosperity, advance the fight against climate change and encourage economic growth in communities of color and economically distressed areas.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Biden’s executive order.

“The American public should never suffer from shortages of essential goods due to supply chain issues,” said Christopher Roberti, senior vice president for cyber, intelligence and supply chain security policy at the Chamber.

Roberti said working with international partners to diversify supply chains and stockpile selected products can help mitigate risk, but he also implored the White House to engage with private industry on any policy recommendations.

Proposals meant to ameliorate connectivity concerns across commercial corridors are expected to dominate an infrastructure policy framework the White House intends to unveil this spring. A comprehensive multitrillion-dollar infrastructure funding package is set to be debated on Capitol Hill soon after federal lawmakers finalize their consideration of a new round of COVID-19 relief aid.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has indicated that during his tenure he will promote the use of electric vehicles, as well as renewable energy.

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