U.S. Textile Manufacturers Want Action to Prioritize Domestic PPE Production

By Jeffrey Bonior
Jan 26 2021 |

Textile makers quickly switched gears in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s time to strengthen production, and make sure the country is better prepared in a future crisis.

America’s textile manufacturers are calling on the Biden administration and Congress to take steps to boost production of personal protective equipment (PPE), build a permanent supply chain – and end our dependence on China.

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association that represents domestic textile manufacturers, launched a campaign on Monday advocating for a number of recommendations to strengthen domestic PPE production – the same day that President Biden signed a new executive order that aims to strengthen Buy America preferences.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) also called on Biden to prioritize fully Made in America PPE.

“This industry retooled production chains in the spring to respond to the crisis as international supply chains broke down,” the pair wrote in a letter sent to Biden on Sunday. “Domestic production capabilities for essential products like isolation gowns, N95 masks, testing swabs and other critical products have grown exponentially since the beginning of the crisis. However, regrettably, we have too many manufacturers in our states and across the nation that have capacity but no orders to supply. With so many capable domestic manufacturers making quality product, the U.S. textile and nonwovens industries are eager to work to ensure you are getting the quality product you need when you need it.”

It is critical that taxpayer dollars are used to invest in American manufacturing and our workforce, according to the NCTO. Part of that effort must include closing loopholes in Buy America laws, expanding application and product coverage of domestic content rules, and closing unnecessary contract waivers that undermine American manufacturing and its workforce.

The executive order signed by Biden on Monday is a start.

“We commend President Biden for taking action in his first days in office to strengthen our domestic supply chain and manufacturing base with a made in America Executive Order directing the federal government to spend taxpayer dollars on American-made goods produced by American workers using American-made components,” said Kim Glas, president and CEO of the NCTO.

She continued: “We look forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress on immediately strengthening our domestic procurement laws. The COVID-19 crisis was exacerbated when foreign supply chains broke down leaving our frontline workers vulnerable, underscoring the vital need for America to manufacture essential medical products at home.”

Lawmakers Brown and Manning called on Biden, through executive order and legislation, to prioritize the purchase of fully Made in America PPE to help continue bolstering the U.S. supply chain regardless of purchasing agency. They also called for issuing long-term contracts directly to domestic manufacturers when possible to help bolster the domestic supply chains.

Thirdly, the lawmakers proposed adopting a contracting purchase methodology that uses “Best Value” criteria versus “Lowest Price Technically Acceptable” criteria.

And finally, the lawmakers asked Biden to designate a point person in charge of coordinating the government’s efforts to procure PPE and other medical equipment, and who would also be responsible for meeting regularly with essential domestic manufacturing stakeholders.

At Monday’s press conference, Biden indicated he would appoint a senior leader in the Executive Office to oversee the government’s Made in America policy approach. The new director of Made in America at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will oversee the implementation of this Executive Order, make sure the President’s new rules are followed, work with key stakeholders and carry through with the President’s vision.

Here at AAM, we are pleased to see the president initiate a process in the first week of a new administration to strengthen Buy America and other domestic content preference policies. Doing so will support job creation and new investment.

“It’s essential to close loopholes, reduce waivers, broaden coverage to more federal spending and more manufactured products, and strengthen origin standards for determining whether a product is produced in the United States,” AAM President Scott Paul said on Monday. “The law should mean what it says: an American product should be truly made in America.”

For more on how domestic textile makers and workers responded to the COVID-19 pandemic – and what needs to happen now to strengthen this critical manufacturing and supply chains – check out Scott Paul’s interview with Kim Glas, embedded below.