Portions written by JOSH BOAK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — After completing a review of supply chains, the Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was forming a task force to address the bottlenecks in the semiconductor, construction, transportation, and agriculture sectors.
Administration officials said the goal of the review, detailed in a 250-page report, was to increase domestic manufacturing, limit shortages of vital goods, and reduce dependence on geopolitical competitors such as China. The officials said the administration wanted to get ahead of crises such as the computer chip shortage that has hurt automakers this year.
“Our approach to supply chain resilience needs to look forward to emerging threats from cybersecurity to climate issues,” Sameera Fazili, a deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said at Tuesday’s news briefing. “And so we are future-proofing.”
In a twist, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) stated that the administration’s proposals for supply-chain relief will worsen workforce problems while ignoring more immediate solutions.
The chief executive officer of the AGC, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement:
“The construction industry is experiencing widespread and growing problems with the cost and supply of materials. These challenges will make it more costly and difficult to achieve the administration’s goals for infrastructure, renewable energy, and affordable housing.
“The President could provide immediate relief from soaring prices for lumber, steel and aluminum by removing harmful tariffs and quotas. Unfortunately, the President’s recommendations ignore that quick and effective approach.
“Instead, these proposals would limit the ability of workers and employers to fill needed construction positions. Imposing mandated hiring percentages from certain localities and training programs, dictating inflexible labor agreements, and setting artificially high pay rates will diminish the number of firms and workers available to carry out vital infrastructure and other construction programs.”
Upon review of the Biden administration’s report, tED magazine found the following statement about mandated hiring practices:
We must ensure that economic opportunities are available in all parts of the country and for women, people of color, and others who are too often left behind. Inequality in income, race, and geography is keeping millions of potential workers, researchers, and entrepreneurs from contributing fully to growth and innovation. The Administration’s approach must provide access and pathways for these “lost Einsteins” — workers, researchers, and business owners — in the growing industries of the 21st century.
Also, the White House Fact Sheet states:
Work with industry and labor to create pathways to quality jobs, with a free and fair choice to join a union, through sector-based community college partnerships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training: DOL’s Employment and Training Administration should support sector-based pathways to jobs, for example in the semiconductor industry.
The 100-day review emphasized that supply chains are critical for national security, economic stability, and global leadership, noting how the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic turmoil exposed U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities, like when soaring demand for medical products wreaked havoc on the health care system.
A shortage of raw materials has made it harder for the U.S. economy to recover from the pandemic-induced recession. The supply bottleneck has helped fuel a bout of inflation that the administration believes will be temporary, though it has provided Republican lawmakers and some economists with grounds for criticizing Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The new task force will be led by the secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture and Transportation to focus on parts of the economy where there is a mismatch between supply and demand.
Fazili said that the shortages are “kind of good problems to be having” because they mean that demand from consumers and businesses is returning. She said the new task force will be bringing together stakeholders to figure out how to address the bottlenecks, adding that many of the resulting actions might be taken by private companies rather than the government.
“The success of our vaccination campaign surprised many people, and so they weren’t prepared for demand to rebound,” said Fazili, who expects the inflation issues to be temporary and resolved in the “next few months.”
Besides the task force, the administration will take several other steps to bolster supply chains, with an effort spread across the government.
The Department of Health and Human Services will use the Defense Production Act to create a public-private partnership for manufacturing essential pharmaceutical drugs. It will also commit $60 million to increase the production of pharmaceutical ingredients.
The Energy Department will release a blueprint to develop supplies for lithium batteries, in addition to providing roughly $17 billion in loans for advanced batteries that would help shift the country to electric vehicles.
The Interior Department will create a working group to determine where critical minerals can be produced and processed in the United States. The Commerce Department plans to increase cooperation and investments within the semiconductor industry, while the Labor Department will announce $100 million in grants for state-led apprenticeship programs.
The U.S. Trade Representative will lead a strike force to target foreign competitors with unfair practices that have eroded supply chains. The Agriculture Department will spend more than $4 billion to strengthen the supply chain for food.
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