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Trump administration to use Defense Production Act to help Maine company produce badly-needed swabs for COVID-19 tests

The government hopes to ramp up production from 3 to 20 million a month.

The Trump administration is planning to use the Defense Production Act to help a Maine manufacturer of medical swabs increase its production of the badly needed supply, a senior administration official told ABC News.

The swabs are in increasingly high demand across the United States amid accelerated testing for COVID-19, which requires the swabs for the collection of specimens from patients' noses or throats.

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After President Donald Trump on Sunday alluded to using the act to ramp up swab production, a senior White House official, Peter Navarro, said the president was referring to swabs made by Puritan Medical Products, based in Guilford, Maine.

Navarro said that the Department of Defense would use Title III of the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, or DPA, which allows the administration to provide funding and other incentives to companies. The measure also gives the president the ability to force companies to sign contracts and impose wage and price controls, among other powers.

“DoD is finalizing negotiations under DPA Title III with Puritan,” Navarro said in a statement. “With DPA support, Puritan will be able to increase its industrial capacity in machine tooling, people, and facilities with the broader goal of increasing nasal swab production from three million to more than 20 million within 30 days of the contract award,” he added.

Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, serves as National Defense Production Act Policy Coordinator for the federal government.

Trump on Sunday alluded to issues his administration had been having with regard to swab production, which Navarro did not address

“We’ve had a little difficulty with one so we're gonna call and -- as we have in the past, as you know -- we are calling in the Defense Production Act and we'll be getting swabs very easily,” the president said Sunday.

Puritan and a company in Italy make swabs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the purposes of testing, Adm. Brett Giroir, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official, told governors on a conference call about testing today. ABC News obtained an audio recording of the call.

The Trump administration has used Title III of the DPA before, such as last year when the Pentagon planned to provide as much as $250 million in direct investments to American bomb makers, according to Defense News (https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2019/01/16/trump-to-use-federal-funds-to-prop-up-us-bomb-makers/).

During the coronavirus pandemic, it has employed other parts of the act in pinpointed ways, in order to compel companies to produce ventilators and crack down on hoarding.

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