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ALERT Senate Armed Services Committee wants to weaken Buy American Act rules

McCain proposes end to long-held domestic sourcing protections that require the Defense Department to rely on American-made suppliers for certain products deemed critical to national security.

November 6, 2017

Six months after President Trump ordered the Pentagon to prioritize American-made products in its vast supply chain, powerful members of his own party are pushing in the opposite direction.

In a move that effectively aligns the White House with Senate Democrats, the Senate Armed Services Committee led by John McCain (R-Ariz.) has proposed language in the 2018 defense spending bill that would end long-held domestic sourcing protections, which require the Defense Department to rely on American-made suppliers for certain products deemed critical to national security.

The bill could give foreign manufacturers greater access to the U.S. shipbuilding supply chain, allowing them to bid on contracts for products such as circuit breakers, anchor and mooring chains, vessel propellers and lifeboats — opportunities that for years have been restricted to U.S. firms.

It would also end domestic sourcing requirements for more complicated goods such as buses, submarine piping valves, solar panel components and injectable antidotes for chemical weapons. A separate provision would give the Defense Department new authority to waive “Buy American” laws entirely when there is only one U.S. supplier able to bid on a contract.

The bill is far from finalized, with the House and Senate working to resolve differences in the legislation before it heads to the president’s desk. Meanwhile, President Trump’s America-first push is drawing new lines around an old fight.

Trump rode into office on promises to rip up international trade agreements and put America’s economic interests first. His April 18 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order put limits on the Pentagon’s ability to waive existing domestic sourcing restrictions, something that was meant to promote hiring in the United States. Since he took office, the Pentagon has tweaked its acquisition policy to step up enforcement of restrictions such as the 1933 Buy American Act, which requires the Pentagon to purchase domestically produced products topping a $3,500 threshold, and the 1941 Berry Amendment, which applies to clothing and food products.

Such policies have been a harder sell in Congress, where many Republicans are opposed to them.

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Tags:   US Manufacturing News    Buy American Act    Manufacturers    Manufacturing    American Suppliers
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