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Biden Administration Kicks Off Initiatives To Avoid Supply Chain Bottlenecks

Workers move a container at the Port of Oakland.

The Biden administration has launched a new office and a package of initiatives aimed at strengthening the nation's supply chain, which has been plagued with a series of disruptions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden officials on Monday unveiled the Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy to oversee the maintenance and improvement of supply chains affecting U.S. commerce, including facilitating the growth of the existing Freight Logistics Optimization Works program. 

FLOW collects supply chain data from mostly privately operated entities, including shipping lines, ports, terminal operators, truckers, railroads and warehouses. One goal of FLOW is to allow shippers to use the data in real time to predict and, ideally, avoid logistics bottlenecks.

A number of large U.S. retailers already participate in FLOW, as do the five largest U.S. container ports and seven of the largest ocean carriers. Retail participants include Albertsons, Costco, Dollar General, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target and Walmart.

In the logistics real estate sector, Elion and Prologis are participants.

The first meeting of the White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience was also scheduled for Monday. The council, a cabinet-level body, reviews supply chain issues and generates strategic documents similar to those prepared for the Department of Homeland Security. The first review will be completed by the end of next year.

Pandemic-associated supply chain disruptions are credited with contributing to inflationary pressures beginning in 2021, as demand for goods at both the wholesale and retail levels spiked and supply was unable to meet that demand.

Supply chain disruption accounted for roughly 60% of the growth in inflation beginning in 2021, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The easing of supply chain kinks has more recently contributed to the easing of inflation.

“Since President Biden took office we have focused on supply chain improvements, not just to recover from pandemic-driven disruptions but also to make lasting improvements for a stronger and more resilient future,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release.

“Our new Multimodal Freight Office will lead coordination of our work to strengthen supply chains – including the FLOW data initiative helping companies and ports make better-informed decisions — so that they can move goods more efficiently and keep costs down for Americans.”