This is a bigger story, I think, than just that, but that is a big story in and of itself. The shipments are just one aspect of the gross incompetence displayed by Trump and his "mis
leadership team.but the bigger picture includes the entire Republican party and the fetish for "cutting costs" and "smaller government". Hop aboard the wayback machine and let me tell you a story...
The Strategic National Stockpile:
Coronavirus Is Putting the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile to the Test. Here’s the Surprising Story Behind the Stash
In April 1998, President Bill Clinton read the Richard Preston novel The Cobra Event, a fiction book about a mad scientists spreading a virus throughout New York City. As a result, Clinton held a meeting with scientists and cabinet officials to discuss the threat of bioterrorism. He was so impressed that he asked the experts to meet with senior-level aides at the Department of Defense and in the Department of Health and Human Services. At that time, the government had stockpiles of medications for military personnel, but did not have them for civilians. Shortly after, The Washington Post wrote that Clinton surprised many in Washington at how fast he and his National Security Council had moved to change that. By October, Clinton signed into law a new budget of $51 million for pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpiling to be carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At first, it was Y2K that was the impetus for the effort and it was limited to stockpiling vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, as the military stockpile that preceded it had done. Then 9/11 happened, and the focus changed (as it should have before then, but I digress...). It became more broad based, including equipment like ventilators and PPE. In 2003 responsibility was passed jointly to Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, and the name changed to the "The Strategic National Stockpile" (jointly, is a problem).
Although initially it was well(ish)-funded, Congress (mostly Republican) quickly lost its ardor, cutting funding in 2007 and again in 2014. to cut costs, most of the suppliers were located in China, where the cheapest vendors were located. As a result of funding limitations and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which used up 100 million of the N95 masks (95% of the supply), the stockpile was never replenished.
When COVID-19 hit three things occurred almost simultaneously: 1) China quit shipping PPE, 2) Trump halved the budget, and 3) a huge chunk of our reserves were sent to China because the administration didn't take the threat seriously. Now, we don't have the reserves, we can't produce our own, and what we do have is well past its "expiration date".