ON NATIONAL MANUFACTURING DAY, MURPHY DECRIES DEFENSE DEPARTMENT’S VIOLATIONS OF ‘BUY AMERICAN’ LAWS

40% of U.S. Navy contracts reviewed violated Buy American Act & Berry Amendment ; Murphy urges Defense Secretary to re-train personnel to comply with the laws & prioritize American manufacturing

WASHINGTON — Today, on National Manufacturing Day and in response to a distressing report by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General revealing that naval contracting personnel did not consistently comply with the Berry Amendment or the Buy American Act, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on DoD to swiftly re-train personnel to improve compliance and prioritize the purchase of American made goods. 

“National Manufacturing Day is an opportunity for us to recognize how essential Connecticut’s manufacturers are to our communities – creating 10.2% of the state’s jobs, accounting for 87% of the state’s total exports, and expanding opportunities for thousands of men and women across Connecticut.” Murphy said. “We shouldn’t be spending taxpayer money overseas at the expense of Connecticut manufacturers. It’s time to put American jobs first.”

According to the Inspector General’s report, 40% of the U.S. Navy contracts reviewed violated either the Buy American Act or the Berry Amendment. In a letter to DoD Secretary Ashton Carter, Murphy decried these violations and emphasized that if the law was correctly applied by contracting personnel, the amount of money spent overseas could be reduced—and more American made goods purchased—without any changes to existing law. Murphy explained that there is no excuse for contracting personnel to not comply with ‘Buy American’ laws, and that such violations are especially damaging to the growth and sustainability of America’s defense industrial base – including shipbuilders and aerospace manufacturers across Connecticut who rely on DoD contracting. Since 2007, DoD has granted 307,123 waivers to the Buy American Act and spent over $176.8 billion on foreign-made goods.

In the letter to Secretary Carter, Murphy wrote, “Naval contracting personnel did not consistently comply with the Berry Amendment or the Buy American Act. Considering the number of contracts DoD already exempts from domestic procurement rules through statutorily acceptable means, there is no excuse for contracting personnel to add to these loopholes and exceptions by not diligently following the law. I therefore urge you to swiftly develop a strategy to re-train contracting personnel to improve compliance and, within the confines of existing law, to always attempt to purchase from an American manufacturer. In Connecticut, our shipbuilding and aerospace industries are crucial pieces of our national defense industrial base. I hope that we can continue to work together as partners in the protection of our defense industrial base.”

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Ashton Carter
Secretary
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Carter:

I write with great concern over an August 2015 report from the DOD Inspector General (IG) regarding U.S. Navy compliance with the Berry Amendment and Buy American Act. As you probably know, the IG examined a very small number of contracts at only two locations, but found that naval contracting personnel did not consistently comply with the Berry Amendment or the Buy American Act. As the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, you no doubt share my concern about what non-compliance with these statutes means for our American defense industrial base.

This report from the IG is especially alarming when you consider that according to DOD’s own data, since 2007, the Department has sidestepped the Buy American Act 307,123 times through waivers and exceptions, and spent over $176.8 billion on goods manufactured outside of the United States. Based on the IG’s report, it is clear that if the Buy American Act was being correctly applied these staggering numbers could be reduced—and more American made goods purchased—without any changes in existing law. Considering the number of contracts DoD already exempts from domestic procurement rules through statutorily acceptable means, there is no excuse for contracting personnel to add to these loopholes and exceptions by not diligently following the law. I therefore urge you to swiftly develop a strategy to re-train contracting personnel to improve compliance with the Buy American Act and Berry Amendment. I also ask that as part of this training, you instruct contracting personnel to, within the confines of existing law, always attempt to purchase from an American manufacturer, rather than attempt to find ways to justify the purchase of foreign goods.

In Connecticut, as you know, our shipbuilding and aerospace industries are crucial pieces of our national defense industrial base. Manufacturers in these industries have reported to me that they have witnessed a trend towards the purchase of goods produced outside of the United States, and this IG report seems to confirm what I am hearing from those manufacturers. Therefore I ask you to act swiftly to rectify the issues addressed in this report and I hope that we can continue to work together as partners in the protection of our defense industrial base.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator