WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act in a major step to boost the supply of baby formula.
The announcement means the federal government will prioritize key ingredients for formula production and compel suppliers to provide the needed resources to formula manufacturers ahead of other customers ordering those goods.
In addition to invoking the 1950 law, which allows the government to direct manufacturing production for national defense, Biden also launched a program that will use U.S. military aircraft to import formula from abroad.
“Today, I’m invoking what they call the Defense Production Act to ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe, healthy infant formula here at home,” Biden said in a video from the White House.
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The law was most prominently used in recent years to fight the coronavirus pandemic, with both Biden and former President Donald Trump invoking it.
Biden's announcement comes after a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to bolster formula production as the shortage worsens and parents scramble to secure formula.
The House is scheduled to vote on a pair of bills Wednesday night to increase access to baby formula under a federal program and boost funding for the Food and Drug Administration to hire more employees.
The FDA in February began warning consumers not to buy certain baby formula as it investigated a string of bacterial infections in four infants tied to an Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan.
Abbott Nutrition, which has denied any wrongdoing, said Monday it had agreed to the FDA’s terms to resume operations at the Michigan plant, but the shortage has pushed parents into a frenzy.
Biden detailed another effort to address the shortage Wednesday, which will use U.S. military aircraft to import formula from abroad.
"I’m also announcing Operation Fly Formula. That’s to be able to speed up the import of infant formula and start getting more formula in stores as soon as possible," Biden said. "I’ve directed the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to send aircraft, planes, overseas to pick up infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards so we can get it on a store shelves faster."
The White House said the program aims to accelerate imports and distribution of formula by using the Pentagon's contracts with commercial air cargo lines to fly formula meeting FDA standards from manufacturing facilities abroad.