HARTFORD — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy criticized the Department of Defense on Friday after a second Pentagon report found that purchasing practices failed to comply with federal law intended to promote U.S. manufacturing.
The Defense Department's inspector general reported last week that it found only partial compliance at the Air Force with federal law restricting the purchase of food, clothing, fabrics, fibers, yarns, hand and measuring tools, and other products not made in the United States.
The law has been critical to maintaining the safety and security of U.S. armed forces by requiring items to be produced in the United States, according to the International Trade Administration. The law also has been important for U.S. textile and clothing production, the agency says.
Murphy, the state's junior Democratic senator, said abuses of the Buy American law are "especially damaging" to national security and defense manufacturing in Connecticut. He requested a meeting with the Defense Department.
The Air Force did not immediately say if a representative will meet with Murphy. It responded to the inspector general's report by saying it will improve training and reinforce contracting procedures and controls. In other cases, it said the law is being followed.
The number of manufacturing jobs in Connecticut has tumbled in the past 25 years, to about 160,000 from 300,000 in 1990. Making jet engine components, gear parts, medical equipment and other components has been on the rebound, but the issue of manufacturing work is sensitive to policymakers, politicians, organized labor and others looking for ways to bring back the coveted high-skill, well-paid jobs.
The Department of Defense is legally exempt from the Buy American Act on many purchases, and the inspector general's report "further proves that lack of compliance within the Department of Defense is seriously damaging American businesses," Murphy said.
The inspector general reviewed contracts for pajamas, hats, jackets, parachutes, handcuffs, body armor, rifleman's kits and other equipment and products.
It was the second branch of the armed services in six months to be criticized internally over purchasing practices. The inspector general said in August that the Navy failed to "consistently comply" with Buy American provisions in 11 of 23 contracts reviewed. Contracting personnel did not assess whether suppliers could provide U.S.-produced items and were unfamiliar with requirements set by law, the report said.
Frank Kendall, an undersecretary of defense, told Murphy in November that acquisition employees in the Defense Department are taking advantage of training programs, demonstrating that the Pentagon is "engaged in helping to preserve the American industrial base."