HARTFORD – In light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have spent tens of billions of dollars on goods manufactured by foreign companies in the last few years, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Friday unveiled the BuyAmerican.gov Act, new legislation that would establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods. Under current law, federal agencies may use Buy American Act waivers to purchase goods or services from foreign companies in extraordinary circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will increase the cost of a product to prohibitively high levels. However, federal agencies routinely fail to follow proper protocols and egregiously overuse this waiver authority without taking into consideration how waivers affect U.S. jobs. There is currently no government-wide system tracking federal agencies’ use and abuse of these waivers.
Murphy’s new BuyAmerican.gov Act would direct the General Services Administration to establish a central website, called BuyAmerican.gov, where government watchdogs and the public can easily view every Buy American waiver federal agencies use to skirt Buy American requirements and contact information for the contracting agencies. This new website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers.
“Buy America is the law of the land for a very good reason: taxpayer dollars should not go to create jobs overseas when they can create those jobs here in America. For years, the government has operated in secrecy to improperly ignore rules that they must purchase American-made goods. Every single time a federal agency sends a contract overseas, it means fewer jobs here at home – just look at what happened to Ansonia Copper & Brass,” said Murphy. “The first step toward solving this problem is to increase transparency so the American people can see when the government is trying to skirt the law. BuyAmerican.gov will hold the government accountable to its people, and help us all make sure our government isn’t improperly sending our money overseas.”
In the last five years, U.S federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms. The Department of Defense (DoD), the largest purchaser of manufactured goods in the world, has spent almost $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. Ansonia Copper & Brass, a brass manufacturing company that served the U.S. Navy, was once Ansonia’s largest taxpayer, and employed as many as 10,000 people for several decades. Despite laws requiring DoD to purchase American-made materials, Ansonia Copper & Brass lost federal contracts to overseas companies. As a result, Ansonia Copper & Brass was forced to lay off its workers and shut its doors in 2013.
In addition to creating the BuyAmerican.gov website, Murphy’s bill codifies President Trump’s Buy American Executive Order and requires agencies to report on the implementation of, and compliance with, Buy American laws. In order to protect and grow manufacturing jobs in Connecticut, Murphy has also introduced the 21st Century Buy American Act and the American Jobs Matter Act, which aim to strengthen existing Buy American standards.