President Trump signed a memorandum directing the health and human services secretary to use “any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors (GM) to accept, perform, and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators” at the end of last week, due to the continued spread of COVID-19.
The Defense Production Act of 1950 was signed by President Truman and gives the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
GM made an announcement about ventilator production a week prior to the memorandum being signed. The auto manufacturer released a joint statement with Ventec Life Systems (Ventec) in which both companies, in cooperation with StopTheSpread.org, worked together to enable Ventec to increase production of its respiratory care products.
“Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their critically important ventilators. To support these efforts, StopTheSpread.org will continue to unite business leaders across the country to collect resources to complement and support government efforts,” a portion of the joint statement reads.
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster.”
Despite the initial efforts, the President felt more could have been done at a faster pace.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” President Trump said. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action [the memorandum] will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
Both GM and Ventec issued another joint response following the President’s remarks regarding GM “wasting time.” According to the joint statement, the companies are aiming to deliver the first ventilators next this month.
“Ventec and GM are working around the clock to meet the urgent need for more ventilators. Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the GM Kokomo facility are already underway to produce Ventec’s critical care ventilator, VOCSN,” a portion of the second joint statement reads.
“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.
According to GM, it’s donating its resources at cost and approximately 1,000 of its workers will immediately start ventilator production. The auto manufacturer also stated it would also start making FDA-cleared surgical masks at its Warren, Mich., manufacturing facility with the goal of producing up to 50,000 masks per day.