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The Obama administration is looking into evoking the Defense Production Act to stem possible shortages of bio-hazard protective gear as fears of an Ebola outbreak grow, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said recently.
Jim Kish, deputy assistant administrator for response at FEMA, said that there is currently no shortage of gear that would protect personnel from the deadly Ebola virus, but the administration is looking into the possibility that there could be a run on such items if the contagion spreads. This, according to a report by nationaldefensemagazine.
“As the situation matures inside the United States … private sector organizations, local jurisdictions, federal agencies are all going to recognize the need to procure and field and expend personnel protective equipment,” Kish said at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.
“I’m not stating that there is a shortage today, but the notion about how we are going to address any potential [shortage] in that area, in terms of planning activity, we’d be negligent if we weren’t thinking about it right now,” he added.
The Obama administration may evoke the Defense Production Act, Kish said. That authorizes the president to require businesses to give federal contracts priority over previously existing contracts “to promote the national defense,” according to the law.
Over the weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tasked FEMA to be the integrator of information and operational coordination for DHS’ response to the Ebola cases.
The lead federal agency remains Health and Human Services, through its agency the Centers for Disease Control, Kish said. But DHS has a widening role.
“As of this morning, we found out that there might be a growing need for that kind of thing as well,” he said, referring to the case of the Dallas-area nurse who flew on a commercial flight after treating an Ebola victim.
In light of that case, the Transportation Security Administration may be called in to carry out some kind of measures, he said. Customs and Border Protection, which screens inbound passengers, already has a role in the response, he said.