Supply chain crisis may force Biden to call in National Guard

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National Guard
National Guard

Joe Biden may resort to calling in the National Guard to tackle mounting logjams at ports and distribution centres, according to reports.

White House officials are reportedly discussing the measure as part of efforts to tackle supply chain problems that have caused widespread delays in the delivery of goods across the US.

Ports have been unable to cope with the huge amount of goods arriving, while there are not enough lorries and trains to carry the loads away.

Experts have blamed the backlogs on a sudden surge in demand for goods and services as economies bounce back from the low points of the pandemic.

Similar issues are being experienced across the west, including the UK where the Government has already deployed the Army to help drive trucks, deliver petrol and unclog port infrastructure.

However, the US has suffered some of the most visible signs of the supply chain stresses, where about 70 container ships were queuing off the California coast earlier this month.

Waiting ships moored off LA and Long Beach in California last week - Tim Rue/Bloomberg
Waiting ships moored off LA and Long Beach in California last week - Tim Rue/Bloomberg

Mr Biden’s advisers have weighed whether members of the National Guard - a military reservist organisation usually called in to tackle domestic emergencies - could drive trucks, handle packages at ports or help unclog other parts of the supply chain, the Washington Post reported.

The idea was said to have been backed by at least one company and has been discussed by senior members of the President’s economics team and the Transportation Department.

It comes after Mr Biden has faced increasing criticism for failing to do more to solve the supply chain problems.

There are mounting concerns about its impact on the upcoming holiday season as Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in November ahead of the festive season.

Some big retailers have already warned consumers they will have to buy early to ensure they get the products they want.

The Republicans have claimed that Mr Biden’s policies to support people who are out of work during the pandemic have contributed to the labour shortages experienced by companies.

US President Joe Biden - Nicholas Kamm / AFP
US President Joe Biden - Nicholas Kamm / AFP

In a letter, Republican members of the House of Representatives said: “The delays at ports, railyards, and warehouses stem directly from extreme labor shortages, caused in large part by the Biden Administration’s and congressional Democrats’ misguided policy to pay people not to work.

“Further, President Biden’s unilateral vaccine mandate will likely worsen the situation as employers are forced to terminate employees unwilling to be vaccinated.”

Responding to reports that the National Guard could be called in, transport secretary Pete Buttigieg has said: “We’re constantly going to reevaluate all our options.”

He said officials were focused on “other steps that we think are making a difference” such speeding up the approvals process for commercial drivers’ licences.

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