Bowing to increasing pressure to do so, President Trump announced Wednesday he would use a law dating back to the early years of the Cold War to address serious shortages of supplies needed for responding to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. The DPA is a law that has its origins in the War Powers Acts of World War II, which granted the executive branch broad powers to direct industrial production for the war effort. Those authorities were allowed to expire when the war was over, but in 1950, after Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, President Harry Truman revived those lapsed powers by persuading Congress to enact the DPA. But this is not a war — this is a health crisis. How does the DPA relate to the coronavirus pandemic? The law contains a section that authorizes the president to control the production and distribution of scarce materials deemed "essential to the national defense." In his executive order, Trump specifically cites protective equipment (presumably face masks) and ventilators as meeting the criteria in this provision.