U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said he was “thrilled” when he heard the House and the Senate had supported his “Buy American” amendment.
“I’ve heard from too many Connecticut manufacturers over the years that they’re hurting because the Pentagon exploits a loophole in the law — spending American taxpayer dollars at foreign corporations that compete with local manufacturers,” Murphy said this week.
When the U.S. Senate passed the House-Senate 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Murphy’s “Buy American” amendment was included in the NDAA. His provision will increase Congressional oversight of U.S. Department of Defense by requiring more transparency over the Department’s “overuse” of Buy American Act waivers through the “overseas use” loophole in the law. This loophole has had a negative impact on businesses, including local ones, that are competing in the global market.
In Bristol, the manufacturing picture has been a challenge. Two years ago, Theis Precision Steel USA nearly shut down. But, with use of a new, German-made plating machine the company was able to expand and add a high-tech metal plating line at its Broad Street factory.
Murphy recently cited Theis, one of the country’s oldest manufacturers, as an example of an American firm “doing better against foreign competition, in part because the labor portion of the price of new products is less and less and less.”
Theis has historically been one of the city’s top taxpayers. After facing possible demise in 2013, its switch to modern technology enabled the company to compete globally.
According to Murphy, in 2014, 83 percent of all the money spent through Buy American Act waivers and exceptions to the Buy American Act, $5.4 billion, was spent using the “outside the United States” exception. In the last four years, the United States has spent $50 billion on the “use outside the country waiver.”
Murphy said that by identifying the concrete effects of Buy American laws, “we can take additional steps to create new American jobs, bolster our country’s manufacturing sector and protect our national security.”
Murphy supports NDAA but says corporations have been exploiting the Buy American Act waivers so they could get parts cheaper from Asia. His amendment would tighten this loophole and require more American companies with defense contracts to buy American rather than foreign parts.
New Britain’s Polamer Precision aerospace manufacturing firm “fits right in with the ‘Made in America’ concept,” said company representative Diana Galik. “It is one of our core beliefs that the U.S. can bring manufacturing back home and compete on a global level.”
Chris Galik, her husband and president and CEO of Polamer, said his company is competing for contracts in the global marketplace. “This legislation introduced by Sen. Murphy should result in more American manufacturing jobs,” he said, “especially with aerospace manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney.”
Murphy acknowledged that “Buy American” is still “in the red zone,” in that it needs one more key play to cross the goal line. In this case, it’s a stroke of the pen from President Obama.
The president could veto NDAA. If this happens, the measure goes back to Congress for a vote. Since the bill passed the House and Senate by comfortable margins, Murphy’s expectation is that Congress will vote to override a presidential veto and the amendment eventually will be signed into law. The only possible snag is multiple members in both Houses could change their votes to sustain a veto. In that event, Murphy can attach the same or a similar amendment to another bill.
However, Murphy says he is optimistic that NDAA will be signed into law — another step in helping American companies, like Polamer and B&F Machine, prosper.