Why American Mask Makers Are Going Out of Business | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #education | #technology | #infosec

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The government’s answer to this pattern is its own buying power. During his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Biden promised that the government would begin to rigorously enforce provisions in the law that call for the federal agencies to buy American-made goods whenever possible.

“Everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails” would be made in America, he vowed.

The plight of these small mask companies, however, suggests that reviving American manufacturing — even when the underlying rationale is national security — won’t be easy.

“Resilience is the byword of the day,” said Marc Schessel, a hospital supply chain expert who is working to develop alternative supply chains for personal protective equipment. And resilience — that is, creating extra manufacturing capacity that can get the country through an emergency — is what the small mask makers say is their value to the country. Sure, they argue, a globalized, just-in-time supply chain for low-cost protective equipment is fine in ordinary times. But we’ve learned these past two years that the country needs domestic manufacturers if we hope to avoid terrible shortages during the next pandemic, and the one after that.

But how do you create that resilience? The federal government spent $682 billion buying goods and services from contractors in 2020, according to Bloomberg Government. That’s the sum the Biden administration wants to use to buy American products. And while it’s hardly chump change, it’s only about 3 percent of America’s $21.5 trillion economy.

The mask manufacturers I interviewed for this article said the Biden administration had expressed interest in buying their masks, but it has yet to happen. Even if it did, it would be unlikely to put much of a dent into Chinese dominance. As Mr. Bowen put it in a recent email to the White House, “Hospitals drive the mask market.” Since their incentives are to reduce costs, he wrote, “Any plan that allows imported masks to cost less than U.S. made masks will result in a foreign government controlled U.S. mask supply — as currently exists.”

To put it another way, the modern imperative of maximizing shareholder value will always put efficiency and cost over resilience.

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