WASHINGTON, D.C. — In light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have granted an excessive number of waivers to Buy American laws in the last few years, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today reintroduced the BuyAmerican.gov Act, legislation that will establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law. Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, federal agencies overuse this waiver authority and there is currently no easily-accessible government-wide system to track the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.
The bipartisan legislation will direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly-available website, at the link currently known as BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. This website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers. The measure will also give manufacturers the chance to challenge pending waivers sought by federal agencies. U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Mike Bost (R-IL) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives today.
“Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products,” said Senator Brown. “American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts.”
“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas. Unfortunately, in the last five years alone, U.S. federal agencies have spent about $34 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms, resulting in contracts and jobs lost to overseas competitors,” said Senator Portman. “By improving transparency, the BuyAmerican.gov Act will encourage federal agencies to support American workers and American jobs by faithfully complying with Buy American laws. This is a bipartisan bill that is needed now to help support American jobs.”
“When the U.S. government is using taxpayer dollars to buy things, it should prioritize American workers and American goods,” said Senator Murphy. “Since Day 1 of the Trump administration, I’ve been pushing BuyAmerican.gov, and I’m glad my calls to create the BuyAmerican.gov website as a one-stop shop for U.S. manufacturers looking for transparency were heeded last week. Our bill would go a much-needed step further. It would strengthen and provide transparency of our Buy American laws, which I’ve been working on since I came to Congress, and provide more opportunities for U.S. manufacturers to compete to boost our economy and help secure the national security supply chain. I’m glad to see our efforts getting more bipartisan support.”
“We streamline procurement and bring transparency to the process,” said Senator Graham. “These important changes will bring a much-needed system of checks-and-balances to the current waiver process. I am excited to work with President Trump and my colleagues in the Senate to make sure manufacturers in South Carolina and across the United States are prioritized when it comes to the bidding and awarding of contracts.”
NOTE: In the last five years, U.S federal agencies have spent approximately $34 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest purchaser of manufactured goods in the world, has spent over $200 billion on manufactured goods made by foreign companies since 2007. At the same time, the United States has been shedding manufacturing jobs that could have been kept in the U.S.
In addition to creating the BuyAmerican.gov website, the bipartisan bill codifies President Trump’s 2017 Buy American Executive Order and requires agencies to report on the implementation of, and compliance with, Buy American laws.