Tester Pushes VA, Biden Administration to Bolster Supply Chains to Strengthen National Security
At hearing, Chairman urges VA officials to ensure the Department has American-made supplies to serve veterans, especially during crises
During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing this week, Chairman Jon Tester stressed the importance of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to support the nation in times of crises, especially by securing domestic supply chains. Tester underscored his concern that the US is too reliant on other countries, including China, for items like personal protective equipment and essential medications, and questioned VA and Department of Health and Human Services officials on their work to boost the domestic supply chain.
“There are more than 100 high-use pharmaceutical products that are not produced domestically, but they’re essential for common diseases like diabetes. These drugs are susceptible to global supply chain disruptions…I believe they constitute a national security risk,” said Tester. “…[W]hat is being done in this realm to ensure that those supply chain challenges and disruptions don’t occur…in the next natural disaster, or how about just don’t occur?”
Chairman Tester noted how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how fragile the nation’s supply chains are. He emphasized that VA stands in a unique position to bolster supply chains and address many of these challenges as the largest integrated health care system in the country.
Tester continued, “…[B]eyond pharmaceuticals, critical supplies and equipment to help keep VA facilities running and serving veterans are now being manufactured right here in America… Is there anything the VA is doing to ensure that we have access to those supplies when we need them?”
VA’s Office of Emergency Management and Resiliency Acting Director Bobby Small emphasized the Department is implementing Tester’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA), including his “Buy America”rule.
In his opening statement, Tester highlighted the important role VA plays during emergencies nationwide: “We have seen an increase in the number and intensity of natural and weather-related events, which have brought hardship and destruction. In Montana, for example, we saw unprecedented flooding of the Yellowstone River in June of 2022…That’s why VA’s authority to provide humanitarian assistance or respond to FEMA assignments is critically important.”
VA plays a critical role in supporting the nation during emergencies, including natural disasters, and times of uncertainty, including under their Fourth Mission authority. In recent years, VA’s use of this authority played a critical role in the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More frequently, however, VA simply seeks to be a “good neighbor” in the communities where it is located by offering a range of emergency response support. During local crises, such as the June 2022 flooding of the Yellowstone River, and other severe weather events, including the Maui fires, VA has redoubled its efforts to provide support to affected veterans. Following Tester’s efforts, VA provided emergency aid and support to Montanans affected by the flooding.
Tester worked across the aisle for months to negotiate the IIJA with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and the White House. Tester also worked to ensure that all iron, steel, and construction materials used for these projects must be made in America. Tester’s law is projected to create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments that will strengthen our nation without raising taxes on working families.