In an unusual move, US military aircraft will transport the first pallets of infant formula to the United States

The White House official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the first flights in support of the newly created Operation Flight program, and they will “leave Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany over the weekend.”

“Given the gravity of the situation, these flights will include US military aircraft,” the official said.

The use of military aircraft for this endeavour is unusual and underscores the urgency of the situation.

The administration’s plan going forward is to use commercially contracted aircraft, but none were available this weekend, according to an official. The official promised further updates to the remaining 114 platforms of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA, “which are expected to arrive in the coming days.”

The first flights over the weekend will transport 132 pallets of NestlĂ© Health Science formula – including Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior – to Indianapolis.

The White House said these specific formulas have been given priority because they serve a critical medical purpose and are in short supply in the United States due to the closure of the Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan. The US Food and Drug Administration has reached an agreement with Abbott Nutrition to reopen the plant, which has been closed for several months due to contamination issues. The agreement sets out the steps a manufacturer must take to resume production at its plant.

The shortage of infant formula has put the White House in crisis and opened another political wound in an already difficult midterm election season, frustrating the West Wing and the rest of the administration as they struggle with little control over the situation centered in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is an independent agency that is neither controlled by the White House nor receiving direct reports from it.

Officials now face criticism that the Food and Drug Administration has moved too slowly to address warning signs. At the same time, they’re trying to find out if formula companies are in fact short on ingredients, while also trying to address potential price gouging.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced Operation Fly Formula, which directs the Departments of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to take advantage of Department of Defense commercial aircraft to import the formula from abroad. He also said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to have more control over industrial production during emergencies, to direct suppliers of formula ingredients to prioritize delivery to formula manufacturers.
The Biden administration has also taken other steps over the past two weeks to address concerns about a months-long formula shortage that has caused parents in various parts of the country to scour stores to feed their children.

The department created a website last week, HHS.gov/formula, to provide resources to families in need. But when a CNN reporter tested some of these options, the exercise, at the excused customer service reps, took an expected time of more than an hour and seriously challenges finding infant formula with some of the key suggestions listed on the new HHS website.

This story was updated with additional details on Friday.

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