A Commons for a Supply Chain in the Post‐COVID‐19 Era: The Case for a Reformed Strategic National Stockpile

Original Scholarship

Policy Points:

  • Reflecting on current response deficiencies, we offer a model for a national contingency supply chain cell (NCSCC) construct to manage the medical materials supply chain in support of emergencies, such as COVID‐19. We develop the following:
    • a framework for governance and response to enable a globally independent supply chain;
    • a flexible structure to accommodate the requirements of state and county health systems for receiving and distributing materials; and
    • a national material “control tower” to improve transparency and real‐time access to material status and location.

Context: Much of the discussion about the failure of the COVID‐19 supply chain has centered on personal protective equipment (PPE) and the degree of vulnerability of care. Prior research on supply chain risks have focused on mitigating the risk of disruptions of specific purchased materials within a bounded region or on the shifting status of cross‐border export restrictions. But COVID‐19 has impacted every purchase category, region, and border. This paper is responsive to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommendation to study and monitor disasters and to provide governments with course of action to satisfy legislative mandates.

Methods: Our analysis draws on our observations of the responses to COVID‐19 in regard to acquisition and contracting problem‐solving, our review of field discussions and interactions with experts, a critique of existing proposals for managing the strategic national stockpile in the United States a mapping of the responses to national contingency planning phases, and the identification of gaps in current national healthcare response policy frameworks and proposals.

Findings: Current proposals call for augmenting a system that has failed to deliver the needed response to COVID‐19. These proposals do not address the key attributes for pandemic plan renewal: flexibility, traceability and transparency, persistence and responsiveness, global independence, and equitable access. We offer a commons‐based framework for achieving the opportunities and risks which are responsive to a constellation of intelligence assets working in and across focal targets of global supply chain risk.

Conclusions: The United States needs a “commons‐based strategy” that is not simply a stockpile repository but instead is a network of repositories, fluid inventories, and analytic monitoring governed by the experts. We need a coordinated effort, a “commons” that will direct both conventional and new suppliers to meet demands and to eliminate hoarding and other behaviors.

Keywords: strategic national stockpile, COVID-19, supply chain disruptions, personal protective equipment.

Open Access

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Handfield R, Finkenstadt DJ, Schneller ES, Godfrey AB, Guinto P. A Commons for a Supply Chain in the Post‐COVID‐19 Era: The Case for a Reformed Strategic National Stockpile. Milbank Q. 2020;98(4):1058-1090. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0009.12485