WATERBURY – Sen. Christopher S. Murphy on Friday doubled down on his efforts to force the Department of Defense to buy American manufactured goods.
It’s an effort Murphy has been championing since he first represented the 5th Congressional District, home to Waterbury and much of Litchfield County, where manufacturing has waned in the last century.
In a stop at the Northwest Regional Workforce Board – American Job Center in Waterbury, Murphy met with area manufacturers to pitch his latest plan. The legislation would force the government to list all buy American waivers on a single website so companies could contest defense department claims the ordered goods can’t be made by a U.S. company. The website would be BuyAmerican.gov.
“There are few things more important to Connecticut’s economy than military manufacturing,” Murphy said after the event. “We get more and more evidence that the Department of Defense is criminally negligent in their enforcement of the Buy American law. The Department of Defense is letting billions of dollars in contracts go overseas that should be spent in the United States.”
Congress passed the Buy American Act in 1933 and President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation. The act requires the U.S. government to give preference to American made products in purchasing, and if the goods are unavailable by an American manufacturer, a waiver is required.
“There should be one website where all Buy American waivers are listed so American companies can contest them,” Murphy said.
Murphy said waivers are now made publicly available after contracts are awarded. “The most important thing is that the waiver is posted before the contract goes into effect,” he said.
Murphy said U.S. federal agencies in the last five years have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms and the Department of Defense, the largest purchaser of manufactured goods in the world, has spent nearly $200 billion on goods manufactured by foreign companies since 2007.
While that spending is directed overseas American companies have suffered, he said.
Murphy said he first learned of Buy American laws in his first term as a Congressman. He met with Platt Brothers in Waterbury where they told him of the legislation and said their military work was increasingly being awarded to overseas companies because the Buy American Act isn’t being enforced.
Dave Berardinelli, of Platt Brothers in Waterbury said his company would use the website if it existed, but just having information on a website might not be enough.
“Just having it on there doesn’t mean that it is the easy way to find it,” he said. “Everything as national stock number. You should be able to track your product like that. It is a really good beginning. I applaud that effort.”
Ansonia Copper & Brass, which made copper nickel tubing for Naval ships went out of business after the Navy switched to another company. Murphy used that company as an example in his announcement. The company closed in 2013 after federal contracts went to overseas companies.
Murphy said he sees this as one issue he can work productively with the Trump Administration. He said although he disagrees on many other political points he won’t let that interfere with this legislation.
“So far the Trump Administration has been very supportive,” he said. “They have been working with us to draft the legislation. I am looking forward to having one important area where I can work with the president on.”