The Washington Post has a deep look out today at Project Airbridge, the Trump administration’s effort to quickly airlift huge amounts of PPE from foreign manufacturers into the United States.
It’s an informative telling of what’s been a murky, complicated and, as the story convincingly suggests, failed effort to end chronic shortages in protective equipment supply around the country.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains a national stockpile for distribution of critical items like PPE, but it hasn’t been enough. Instead, Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has set up Project Airbridge, an effort to have FEMA underwrite cargo flights bringing privately produced masks to the U.S.
The Washington Post story includes a telling anecdote.
Last month, Vice President Mike Pence added posts to his Instagram and Twitter accounts that attributed the delivery of hundreds of thousands of N95 masks — as well as other PPE components — to Project Airbridge. The posts said that the effort had focused on delivering the masks to three likely swing states in the 2020 election: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana.
That didn’t make sense. In total, the Instagram posts claimed 1.4 million masks had been delivered to the three states.
But according to FEMA records reviewed by the Washington Post, Project Airbridge had brought fewer than 800,000 masks into the country.
After the Washington Post asked about the Instagram posts, the ones for Minnesota and Indiana were deleted and replaced. The new images attributed the PPE deliveries to FEMA, but not to Project Airbridge:
The original Wisconsin post stayed up. It’s not clear why.
Pence’s office did not return a request for comment.
But the mix-up comes as people continue to demand answers over the unexplained series of federal confiscations of PPE being imported into the United States. In one case, FEMA confiscated a shipment that was headed to another federal agency: the Veteran’s Administration.
When asked, FEMA told the agency that the supplies had been diverted into the national stockpile. Where the PPE goes from there, and how that decision is made, is unclear. But the Vice President’s public statements suggest that the administration wants certain states to know they’re benefitting.