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Biden signs executive order on securing critical supply chains

Washington — President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday directing federal agencies to conduct a review of supply chains for critical goods, including pharmaceuticals and large capacity batteries. Specifically, the review will target semiconductors, key minerals and materials, pharmaceuticals and their ingredients, and advanced batteries like the ones used in electric vehicles. 

The pandemic has revealed the United States' reliance on countries like China for supplies such as personal protective equipment.  Mr. Biden held a meeting with Democrats and Republicans Wednesday afternoon on supply chain issues. The president said it's critical that the U.S. make sure supply chains are "secure and reliable." 

"It's about resilience, identifying possible points of vulnerabilities in our supply chain, and making sure we have the backup alternatives or workarounds in place," Mr. Biden said. "Remember that old proverb, for want of a nail, the shoe was lost? For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. And it goes on and on and on until the kingdom was lost, all for the want of a horseshoe nail. Even small failures at one point in the supply chain can cause outsized impacts further up the chain."

The president specifically said a shortage of computer chips, semiconductors, has created a serious problem in the U.S. economy. Mr. Biden said leaders in his administration will work with industry leaders to discover solutions for the semiconductor shortfall. 

"We need to stop playing catchup after the supply chain crisis hit. We need to prevent a supply chain crisis from hitting in the first place," Mr. Biden said. 

The president has signed a raft of executive orders since taking office last month in an effort to stabilize an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. This latest action comes as Congress presses forward with the president's $1.9 trillion stimulus package, with the goal of passing it by the expiration deadline for several critical relief programs in mid-March.

Republican Senator John Cornyn said the COVID-19 relief package did not come up during that bipartisan meeting Wednesday. 

According to a White House fact sheet on the executive order, the president will direct a 100-day review across federal agencies to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical agreements, critical minerals including rare earths, semiconductors and advanced packaging, and large capacity batteries such as those used in electric vehicles.

"The 100-day review will identify near term steps the administration can take, including with Congress, to address vulnerabilities in the supply chains for these critical goods," the fact sheet said.

The order will also order a one-year review of a broader set of supply chains, with a focus on "six key sectors" including the defense industrial base and the public health and biological preparedness industrial base.

"Agencies and Departments are directed to review a variety of risks to supply chains and industrial bases. For example, these reviews must identify critical goods and materials within supply chains, the manufacturing or other capabilities needed to produce those materials, as well as a variety of vulnerabilities created by failure to develop domestic capabilities," the White House said. Agencies will also be directed to make specific recommendations for improvements.

The fact sheet said that the executive order will "build on bipartisan congressional action and leadership on this issue," adding that the administration "will remain in close touch with Congress to solicit recommendations during the review."

Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on Mr. Biden's relief package on Friday. Despite the president's calls for bipartisanship, the bill is expected to pass along party lines, without any Republican votes.

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