Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack never attended meetings of the task force he co-chaired to help resolve the nation’s supply chain woes, according to a public records request from the Functional Government Institute.
A public records request from the Functional Government Institute revealed that the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, created by the White House two years ago, suffered from nonexistent leadership. The Agriculture Department only produced 19 pages of records related to the entity after five months and a federal lawsuit from the Functional Government Institute; 14 of the pages were copied from public statements about the initiative, and none of the records provided evidence that Vilsack or his deputies attended any meetings.
“As the administration rightly recognized in creating the Task Force, supply chain issues threaten the economic and national security of the country,” Functional Government Institute Spokesman Peter McGinnis said in a press release. “Secretary Vilsack’s failure to convene a single meeting with his fellow leaders, while dedicating federal resources to investigate and blame the private sector, shows that the Task Force was little more than a cynical attempt to signal engagement on supply chain disruptions while, in fact, doing little or nothing.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo were also named co-chairs of the task force, according to a June 2021 statement from the White House, which added that the officials would focus on bottlenecked products such as construction materials, semiconductors, and food supplies. Vilsack said in another press release that he was eager to “mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.”
The Functional Government Institute noted that Buttigieg’s calendars during his two-month paternity leave likewise show he did not participate in any meetings for the initiative. More recently, Buttigieg vacationed in Portugal as the possibility of a nationwide rail strike loomed at the end of last year.
Lockdowns and public health mandates imposed by many governments across the world fostered unpredictable supply chain shocks, contributing to inflation in many countries. Sectors impacted most severely by foreign bottleneck exposure, such as automotive manufacturing, textiles, and basic metals, also witnessed the most potent inflationary pressures, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The creation of the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force occurred after industry leaders pressed the Biden administration to offer “strong leadership” in addressing the crisis. “The supply chain disruption issues, especially the congestion affecting our key maritime ports, are causing significant challenges for America’s retailers,” National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden. “As the administration undergoes supply chain reviews for critical sectors, including transportation, addressing the current state of our nation’s ports and freight movement needs to be a critical component of the strategy.”
Biden administration officials have nevertheless taken credit for partial mitigation in price level increases. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently remarked that “we continue to see improvement in supply chains” during an interview with NPR and claimed that inflation “has really been quite moderate, quite low for the last six months or so,” even as price increases remain well above the 2% annual rate seen before the lockdown-induced recession.