A group of bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers is hoping to push a supply chain bill through Congress during the final days of the year.
Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Reps. Norma J. Torres, D-Calif., and Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., are hoping to attach their draft bill, which would establish a national database aimed at streamlining the U.S. supply chain, to the pending National Defense Authorization Act but also reintroduced it Wednesday as a stand-alone bill in case it isn’t included in the final package.
The database is intended to minimize supply chain disruptions by giving manufacturers crucial information aimed at helping them choose how to retool to meet the need for products such as defense supplies or medical devices as necessary.
The lawmakers argue that during the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic, states understood what was produced in their states but weren’t aware of how dependent those in-state manufacturers were on out-of-state resources.
The legislation aims to use the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a public-private program housed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to assist small and medium manufacturers, to create a National MEP Supply Chain Database. That national database would consist of information from manufacturing extension partnership programs in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
The bill introduction came as President Joe Biden sought to soothe the public about supply chain worries ahead of the holidays, saying the administration is working to open up logjams that are delaying the movement of products.
“Those shelves are going to be stocked,” he said.
A supply chain shortage spurred by increased consumer demand, clogged ports, inefficient deployment of a reduced number of long-haul truck drivers and other factors has become a crisis as Christmas approaches, with Republicans blaming President Joe Biden and Democrats for the crisis and Democrats blaming it on a variety of factors.
This bill would provide a domestic alternative to overseas imports, making it easier for manufacturers to identify sources of raw materials, for example, or use information in the database to determine how better to distribute products.
The database would include company information, an overview of capabilities, accreditation and products, and proprietary information.
In a statement announcing the bill’s introduction, Blackburn said it “will help bring needed transparency to manufacturers and businesses struggling to get their supply chains back on track.”
Menendez, meanwhile, said the pandemic exposed “deep vulnerabilities in our own national supply chains that we are still dealing with as a country and that make us susceptible during moments of crisis.”
“Future pandemics, natural disasters, cyber-attacks, raw material shortages, and even trade disputes could cripple our supply chains right when we need to engage them most in order to deliver critical goods to the American public,” he said.
The bill is backed by groups such as the American Small Manufacturers Association but opposed by the National Taxpayers Union, which argues it would authorize $135 million for the database without offsets.
The NDAA 2021 conference report instructed NIST to conduct a feasibility study on the need for a national supply chain database. Menendez said that study ultimately determined that it was both feasible and advisable to establish such a database.