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February 25, 2021

Senator King Questions COVID Response Leaders on Vaccine Distribution Bottlenecks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) questioned U.S. Army General Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Officer of Operation Warp Speed, on the status of the current plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Americans and opportunities to strengthen and streamline the process. During his questioning, Senator King sought information on the bottlenecks to the existing systems, and offered the Committee’s assistance to speed up the process so more Americans can access the vaccine in order to bring the virus under control.

“One of the most effective things about the military is the after-action review, and of course we’re in the middle of the action right now, but to the extent you can assess, [what are the] problems in the Defense Production Act. For example: authorities, timing, how it actually is executed, that would be very helpful to us,” said Senator King. “In terms of distribution; are there authorities, elements of the effectuation of your work that can be improved by changes in statute and things that we can do to help? I hope you will supply us, after this hearing, with any written suggestions that you have for authority changes or other things that we can do, based on the now extensive experience you have dealing with this catastrophic situation. With that, I want to thank all of our witnesses today, as all of us have, for really extraordinary work – and we want to be sure to really support you in every way possible to complete this work, and end this terrible chapter in American history.”

Senator King has been outspoken about the need to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine distribution; following a call with top Biden Administration officials, Senator King stressed the need for legislation to support the American people during the coronavirus pandemic and allocate vaccines as quickly as possible. Senator King has pushed the federal government to quickly and accurately act to make sure Americans have access to the available science and systems they need to stay healthy and stop the spread of the virus – including his April recommendation directly to the White House urging a government-wide testing effort to control the pandemic’s spread.

Senator King introduced the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act to establish grants that could be used to support programs that use mobile health units or work through community-based organizations, provide coronavirus testing, conduct contact tracing, or offer assistance to individuals who quarantine after a positive test or contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus. He also sent a letter urging Senate Appropriations leadership to fund a comprehensive program of testing, tracing, and supported isolation (TTSI). Last year, Senator King wrote to the White House urging a focused effort to expand testing and tracing capabilities.

In addition to General Perna, today’s hearing included testimony from: Stacy Cummings, Performing The Duties Of Under Secretary Of Defense For Acquisition And Sustainment; and Robert Salesses, Performing The Duties Of Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Homeland Defense And Global Security.

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