Sen. Murphy Re-Introduces Buy American Act

By:  Mara Lee
Hartford Courant

Sen. Chris Murphy, coming off a victory in his quest to boost Buy American rules, has re-introduced a bill that would narrow exemptions to the procurement law for federal agencies.

The victory was an amendment that passed Congress, requiring the Pentagon to report contracts valued at more than $5 million for foreign-made equipment that is only used overseas. Purchases that are going to stay overseas qualify for the exemption to Buy American laws.

A spokeswoman said Murphy has found that when officials must report the use of exemptions, the Department of Defense uses those exemptions less often.

His office said that In 2014, 83 percent of the money spent with Buy American Act waivers and exceptions to the Buy American Act used the outside-the-country exception. That spending totaled $5.4 billion.

The Buy American bill that Murphy introduced Wednesday would narrow the overseas exemption, saying it could only be applied if the foreign equipment were 50 percent more costly than American-made versions, or if "the item is needed urgently for national security purposes."

This is the third time Murphy has introduced the bill in the last six years.

The bill would also increase the U.S. content to qualify as American-made from 50 percent to 60 percent; require a jobs impact analysis when the public interest waiver is applied; and offer loans and loan guarantees to companies that are either the sole supplier of a government-purchased item or want to begin making an item that currently is not made in the United States.

Murphy says the Pentagon has a practice of "outrageous misuse of Buy American waivers," and that not honoring the law is damaging to the sustainability of America's defense industrial base.

Buying American Is Good Rule For The Feds
It's not just the application of waivers that concerns Murphy, but the fact that a spot check of Navy contracting found that some bases were inconsistent in following both Buy American laws and stricter contracting rules for textiles and a few other products.

"The fact that the federal government is spending billions of tax dollars in overseas shops is as outrageous to [voters] as it is to me," Murphy said back in 2009, when he began pushing this issue, when he was still in the House of Representatives.