Biden Calls on Private Sector to ‘Step Up’ to Address Supply Bottlenecks

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
October 13, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

President Joe Biden has called on the private sector supply chain to “step up” amid growing concerns around logistical bottlenecks and increasing inflation.

Biden’s comments in a speech on Oct. 13 came following announcements that the Port of Los Angeles will move to a 24/7 service—a step the Port of Long Beach made several weeks ago—in response to record backlogs on the wharves and dozens of cargo ships waiting to unload.

Additionally, Walmart, UPS, and FedEx announced on Oct. 13 that they will also be moving to a 24/7 operating schedule.

Target, Home Depot, and Samsung also made commitments to ramp up work during off-peak hours.

“But now, we need the rest of the private-sector chain to step up as well,” Biden said. “This is not called a supply chain for nothing—this means that [sic] terminal operators, railways, trucking companies, shippers, and other retailers as well.”

The president vowed to “direct all appropriate action” if federal support was needed, and added that “if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act.”

Earlier, a senior White House official, when asked about this year’s holiday shopping, told Reuters on Oct. 11 that “there will be things that people can’t get.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed to reporters on Oct. 13 that there are a “number of issues that impact the supply chain,” mentioning vulnerabilities in the U.S. food system and housing market amid heightened costs for meat and lumber.

“I can’t make a prediction for you that we’re going to solve every issue tomorrow and next week. We’re not,” Psaki said. “We’re coming out of an economic crisis caused by a pandemic, but what we are doing is using every tool at our disposal to ease the impact on the American people, ease the impact on families as we look to the holidays.”

A report from the Department of Labor released on Oct. 13 found that U.S. consumer prices in September accelerated at their fastest annual rate in 13 years, noting an increase in cost for products like food and gasoline.

Last month, the food index rose 0.9 percent, the index for food at home rose 1.2 percent, energy jumped 1.3 percent, and the gasoline index rose 1.2 percent, according to the report.

The Federal Reserve last month predicted a 2021 inflation rate of 4.2 percent, well above its 2 percent target.

“Next year, we expect [inflation] to come down, as outside forecasters are projecting,” Psaki said.

Biden also used the speech to promote his proposed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, and even larger “Build Back Better” spending agenda, as long-term solutions to supply chain and inflation issues.

“We’re proposing to make the biggest investment in ports in our history. The bill would also make investments in our supply chains and manufacturing, strengthening our ability to make more goods from beginning-to-end right here in America,” Biden said.

Biden commissioned a report in February that found weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain for semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging; large-capacity batteries, like those for electric vehicles; critical minerals and materials; and pharmaceuticals and advanced pharmaceutical ingredients.

In response to the findings, Biden created a task force in June devoted to the issue and announced other steps from government agencies.

In August, the White House tapped John Porcari, a veteran transportation official who served in the Obama administration, as a new envoy to the nation’s ports.

The task force has also sought to address the rising cost of meat through a Food Supply Loan Guarantee Program, steering $100 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to expand processing capacity for meat and poultry.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.