President Trump on Thursday announced a restructuring of the, which lacked sufficient critical supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump, who has been in office three years, blames the Obama administration for the shortfall.
The Trump administration's goal is to expand the stockpile so it has enough supplies for 90 days, instead of just a few weeks. The president made the announcement at Owens & Minor, a medical distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"Under the previous administration the stockpile was depleted and never fully refilled," the president said during his speech at the facility. "... My administration is taking action to modernize the stockpiles during this crisis."
Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted head of a federal office tasked with fighting infectious diseases, testified on Capitol Hill Thursday that before 2017, an annual review of the strategic national stockpile was conducted, but since then there has been no interagency, cross-departmental review of the nation's supplies.
The stockpile was initially designed to address bioterrorism threats after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
States and hospitals urged the Trump administration to ramp up the supply of ventilators in the earlier days of the pandemic, although n95 masks and personal protective gear continue to be a need for health care workers.
A senior administration official told reporters Thursday the stockpile was depleted of n95 masks after the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. The administration hopes to have 300 million such masks in the next three months.