Professor Addresses Pandemic Procurement Problems

Christopher Yukins
September 03, 2021

GW Law Professor Christopher Yukins joined the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) for its webinar last month to discuss the complex legal issues that states faced in procuring personal protection equipment (PPE) during the height of the pandemic in 2020. 

The webinar delves into NASPO’s research report Assessing State PPE Procurement During COVID-19 (March 2021), of which Professor Yukins is also a co-author. Drawing on this research, the webinar addresses issues such as the legal aspects of emergency procurement, the challenges procurement faced while responding to COVID at both the state and national levels, and the characteristics of a strong state procurement response. 

Looking at the issues surrounding the use of the Defense Production Act to increase production of PPE, Professor Yukins noted that FEMA was responding to national data on shortages, which may not have fully reflected local conditions and needs. “The data suggest that we should be looking for decentralization in an emergency, not centralization,” said Professor Yukins. 

Professor Yukins also pointed to a recent GAO report which recommends that in its exercise of powers under the Defense Production Act, FEMA should be more transparent in the future. 

“[FEMA] should be more transparent about how they’re making decisions, and where supplies are going,” said Professor Yukins. “That is actually, at least, a first step to resolving the collision between federalism and the federal government’s role in coordinating a national response to a national emergency. If we have more transparency, we will be better able to resolve the allocation of critical supplies in the next emergency.” 

Watch the “Emergency State Procurement during COVID” webinar on YouTube

Professor Yukins is the Lynn David Research Professor in Government Procurement Law and Co-Director of the Government Procurement Law Program.