Trump invoked the DPA 'hundreds of thousands of times' in his presidency before forcing GM to make ventilators

Kathryn Krawczyk

The Defense Production Act isn't the rarely used, last-resort power President Trump has made it out to be.

Trump officially invoked the Korean War-era mandate on Friday to compel General Motors to make ventilators to address a nationwide shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But for more than a week beforehand, Trump acted like invoking the DPA to force production of government necessities was a big deal and held out on doing so — even though he'd used it "hundreds of thousands of times" throughout his presidency, The New York Times reports.

While he originally signed the DPA in mid-March, Trump clarified in a follow-up tweet that he would only "invoke it in a worst case scenario." A week after that, Trump tweeted that "we haven't had to use" the act "because no one has said no!" Companies had already switched their production lines to make direly needed masks, Trump said, though lawmakers continued to push him to invoke the DPA until he did last week.

But reports submitted to Congress and interviews with former government officials show using the DPA was nothing new for Trump, per the Times. The Defense Department has reportedly used it over 300,000 times each year, including to obtain "rare Earth metals" to build lasers last summer. It all led Larry Hall, the recently retired director of the DPA program division at FEMA, to question "What's more important? Building an aircraft carrier or a frigate using priority ratings or saving a hundred thousand lives using priorities for ventilators?"

Still, Trump hasn't used the DPA on a company other than GM despite the fact the General Electric employees walked off the job to demand they make ventilators on Monday. Read more at The New York Times.

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