With images of empty paper-goods shelves and sparsely stocked meat cases fresh in consumers' and retailers' minds—not only from COVID-19 disruptions but also from this month's severe winter storms—supply chains are coming under heightened scrutiny from multiple sources this week.
On Feb. 24, the White House announced that President Joe Biden will order a one-year, in-depth review of supply chains for six key sectors, including agricultural commodities and food production. The executive order will direct federal agencies and departments to identify not only the specific goods and manufacturing processes that are essential to the functioning of critical supply chains but also the vulnerabilities created when the U.S. lacks capacity to source or make what it needs domestically.
Federal agencies are directed to make specific policy recommendations and work with external stakeholders, including industry groups, as part of the government's efforts to bolster U.S. supply-chain resilience.
Separately, on Feb. 23, the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) called for the creation of a national Office of Supply Chain. The groups, along with researchers from Iowa State University, issued a report that makes the case for a federal supply-chain office to help remedy "disjointed" current efforts to manage supply chains.
Right now, at the federal level, supply-chain management is handled by subdepartment-level offices (including the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration) and through various interdepartmental partnerships, such as among the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency, FEMA (part of the Department of Homeland Security) and the Department of Health and Human Services.
A national Office of Supply Chain, according to the CBA and the CSCMP, would "provide much-needed expertise, facilitate coordination across the federal government and encourage collaboration with the private sector."
"The pandemic displayed just how fragile and essential supply chains are, especially for vulnerable populations where access, affordability and availability are paramount," CBA President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a news release. "Greater federal leadership on supply-chain policy will lead to a stronger economic recovery, growth and stability for future crises."
The report's additional recommended policy actions to stand up and shore up U.S. supply chains include immigration reform and the creation of a framework to address the use of autonomous vehicles and other emerging transportation technologies.
"Supply-chain policy is often myopic, unintentional or uncoordinated," CBA VP of Supply Chain and Logistics Tom Madrecki wrote in a CBA blog post in support of the recently released report. Aligning existing supply-chain policies and taking a more comprehensive, strategic view of supply-chain strengths, needs and gaps would ultimately be in the interest of not only consumers and U.S. businesses but also national security, he indicated.
"When supply chains function as intended, they reduce costs and create efficiencies that benefit all parties, from manufacturers to transporters to retailers to consumers," Madrecki wrote.