Congress Grapples With Buy American Laws.

Author:Bozman, Jeff
Position:Government Contracting Insights

Back in May, this column reported on President Donald Trump's "Buy American" executive order, which formally announced the administration's policy and plan to "maximize... use of goods, products and materials produced in the United States" through federal procurements to "support the American manufacturing and defense industrial bases."

Among other things, the order required agencies to "scrupulously monitor, enforce and comply with" so-called Buy American laws and minimize the use of waivers.

It also required Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to issue a report to Trump by November that would provide specific recommendations to strengthen implementation of the laws, including domestic procurement preference policies and programs. As of press time, the report has yet to be released.

However, there have been several developments in recent months.

In June, nine Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Trump arguing that the North American Free Trade Agreement "creates loopholes in Buy American requirements." They urged the president to address these loopholes by removing the government procurement chapter from NAFTA.

The following week the director of defense procurement and acquisition policy issued a memorandum noting that, "recent fraud convictions related to compliance with Buy American laws highlight the need for the defense acquisition workforce to be vigilant in its oversight and enforcement strategies."

The memorandum also indicated training modules for Buy American Act and Berry Amendment compliance had been updated. Compliance clearly is on the Defense Department's radar.

Later that month, Ross and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney issued a memorandum to all federal agencies providing guidance about what must be included in their forthcoming reports regarding the "assessment and enforcement of domestic preferences in accordance with Buy American laws."

Federal agencies must evaluate their oversight of such laws, report on the use of exemptions and waivers, identify actions to review and update relevant agency guidance, and describe plans for strengthened internal reviews.

In July, the Defense Department inspector general issued a report concluding that Defense Logistics Agency personnel did "not consistently comply with" the Buy American Act and the Berry Amendment. Among other things, the report recommended that DLA officials "amend standard operating procedures and internal processes to improve compliance."


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