A Shameful Use of Taxpayer Dollars in Alaska

By Anonymous

The United States government has domestic procurement laws – often called Buy America laws – on the books to ensure that American-made manufactured goods are used to the fullest extent possible when taxpayer dollars are used to build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. These laws have been on the books for nearly 80 years, but, unfortunately, have been weakened with loopholes and various exemptions that make it easier for bureaucrats to purchase foreign-made goods instead of those made in American factories with American workers.

Allow us to state the obvious: Using tax dollars to purchase foreign-made goods does very little to support our economy. In fact, research shows that when domestic procurement is maximized with Buy America laws, 33 percent more manufacturing jobs are created.

An example of the weakness in our Buy America laws is currently on display in Alaska, where federal dollars are at risk of being sent abroad for materials that will be used for a U.S. Army railroad bridge. The Alaska Railroad Corporation is trying to cut corners, instead of utilizing American-made steel for the bridge construction. According to the National Steel Bridge Alliance:

The $190 million Tanana River Bridge Crossing project is being developed as part of the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s Northern Rail Extension, which would provide the military year round access to the Joint Pacific Area Range Complex (JPARC) military training grounds. Federal funding for this project has come from the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the U.S. Department of Defense has already provided $104 million. NSBA states that efforts are currently being made to source the material and fabrication from non-domestic sources, and it would be an outrageous abuse of taxpayer funds if the Alaskan Railroad Corporation uses tax payers’ money to support the steel industry overseas for this important national security project when we could be providing jobs for our citizens.”

We agree and so do American voters. According to AAM’s new bipartisan, national poll, there is overwhelming support across party affiliation for Buy America provisions:

•    91% overall
•    94% Democrat
•    88% Independent
•    90% GOP
•    89% Tea Party supporters

Unfortunately, NSBA reports in its August 2011 newsletter that federal officials in Washington aren’t budging. Does this sound eerily similar to the Oakland Bay Bridge fiasco? Here is NSBA’s take on that situation:

“ARRC’s plan to source the Tanana River steel bridge components offshore seems parallel to the unfortunate decision of California authorities to source Oakland Bay Bridge steel from a Chinese producer ostensibly for reasons of cost and more rapid availability when, in fact, the Chinese fabricator had quality problems and has been seriously late in delivering the project, which is now more than three years behind schedule. The state and its contractors have spent millions in extra funds monitoring the production and fabrication process, thousands of Chinese jobs at low labor rates were subsidized by California taxpayers, and the U.S. bridge fabricators who were ready to do the job but were bypassed allegedly for price and scheduling issues, could have, in fact, supplied the necessary steel within the time frame and overall cost which the project sustained as a result of its decision to go with a Chinese fabricator.”