Pentagon invokes Defense Production Act to make 40 million masks

The agency says the order will produce tens of millions of protective masks over the next three months.

Updated: April 11, 2020 - 6:56pm

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The Pentagon announced Saturday that it is invoking the Defense Production Act to significantly ramp up production of personal protective equipment like masks, a welcome sign for beleaguered American healthcare workers who have endured weeks of equipment shortages across the country. 

The declaration stated that the department will leverage $133 million in investments to "increase U.S. domestic N95 mask production by over 39 million over the next 90 days."

N95 masks, according to the FDA, are "personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face." Such masks have been in chronic shortage in the hardest-hit parts of the country since the coronavirus outbreak began spreading here at the beginning of the year. 

The ramped-up production "will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation," the Department of Defense said on Saturday. 

The Defense Production Act has been regularly cited as a vital tool in the government's fight against the pandemic. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Friday on President Trump to invoke the act in order to ramp up production of antibody tests throughout the country. 

At the beginning of this month, Trump invoked the act to halt the export of critical medical supplies from the United States.