WASHINGTON — In light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have granted an excessive number of waivers to Buy American laws in the last few years, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) 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 in compliance with existing law. Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, federal agencies overuse this waiver authority. There is currently no government-wide system tracking the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.
The new BuyAmerican.gov Act would direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly-available website, called BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. This new website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers. Murphy first suggested the BuyAmerican.gov website last year in a letter he sent to President Trump outlining five executive actions that the President should take to close loopholes in Buy American laws.
“Taxpayer dollars should support American jobs, not jobs overseas. This bill will strengthen Buy American laws, boosting Connecticut’s economy and securing our national security supply chain,” said Murphy. “I first brought up the idea of BuyAmerican.gov to President Trump in his first week of office, and I’m thrilled to see this bipartisan measure gain steam in the Senate.”
“We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas. Unfortunately, in the last five years alone, U.S. federal agencies have spent $47.7 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms, resulting in contracts and jobs lost to overseas competitors,” said Portman. “By improving transparency, the BuyAmerican.gov Act will encourage federal agencies to support American workers and American jobs by faithfully complying with Buy American law. This is a bipartisan bill that is needed now to help protect American jobs.”
“We streamline procurement and bring transparency to the process,” said Graham. “These important changes will bring a much-need system of checks-and-balances to the current waiver process. I am excited to work with President Trump and my colleagues in the Senate to make sure manufacturers in South Carolina and across the United States are prioritized when it comes to the bidding and awarding of contracts.”
“Taxpayer dollars should support American-made products, and our federal agencies should lead the way in promoting U.S. jobs and products,” said Brown. “American workers are the best at what they do, and our federal agencies should always look to them first when awarding government contracts.”
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.
In addition to creating the BuyAmerican.gov website, the bipartisan 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 American Jobs Matter Act to strengthen existing Buy American standards.