Trump administration changes definition of national stockpile after Kushner remarks

The Trump administration quietly changed an online description of the country's Strategic National Stockpile following a press briefing with White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFederal government pauses Kodak loan pending probes Beirut blast raises urgent questions about America's leadership in the world Lincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' MORE

Previously, according to the federal public health emergency website, the Strategic National Stockpile was described as "the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out."

The description continued: "When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency."

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That definition disappeared from the site on Friday. 

The new, one-paragraph description says the stockpile is meant as a “short-term stopgap.”

"The Strategic National Stockpile's role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available," the website now says.

In a statement posted to the HHS Public Affairs Twitter account, the agency said it "first began working to update this text a week ago to more clearly explain the role of the Strategic National Stockpile. HHS has been using this same language in statements to the press for weeks now."

The language more closely matches what Kushner said on Thursday when he made his coronavirus task force briefing debut.

Kushner, a senior adviser and the president's son-in-law, was recently directed to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on supply chain issues related to the coronavirus outbreak. He is said to have assumed the role roughly two weeks ago.

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Kushner said states should be more resourceful in procuring supplies for themselves, and not be relying on the federal government for assistance. 

"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile, it's not supposed to be the state's stockpile that they then use," Kushner said.

Kushner accused some state officials of requesting supplies without knowing what they need.

“Some governors you speak to, or senators, and they don't know what's in their state,” Kushner said when asked by a reporter what it takes for a state to receive ventilators from the national stockpile. 

“Don’t ask us for things when you don’t know what you have in your own state. Just because you’re scared, you ask your medical professionals and they don’t know. You have to take inventory of what you have in your own state and then you have to be able to show that there’s a real need," Kushner said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the federal government to deplete much of its reserves as states and hospitals nationwide struggle with a surge of critical patients. FEMA officials recently told a House panel that the government has fewer than 10,000 ventilators in stock. 

Governors have been pleading with the Trump administration for help, and have continually said they are not receiving nearly enough supplies from the stockpile to address the surge in hospitalizations.

Updated at 2:50 p.m.