Build America Is an Integral Part of America’s Infrastructure and Clean Energy Goals

By Cathalijne Adams

We’re sounding off on the Washington Post editorial board’s shortsighted rebuke of Buy America.

The Washington Post editorial board published an article Thursday characterizing the application of Buy America provisions within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act as “Biden throw[ing] a wrench into his own infrastructure plan,” as the article headline put it. What the board fails to understand is that that misplaced “wrench” is actually a critical part of the machinery, without which the BIL and IRA will fail to run as intended.  

Congress specifically included Buy America preferences in the infrastructure law to ensure that American manufacturers and workers get the first shot at taxpayer-funded projects. Similarly, Buy America provisions within the IRA were intended to develop critically needed domestic supply chains. America stands to gain millions of jobs and a stronger, more resilient domestic manufacturing base if Buy America provisions for BIL and IRA are fully enforced.

But the Washington Post editorial team has its own decidedly shortsighted take. The writers argue that Buy America will “make it harder to build the things the country needs to sustain Americans’ quality of life and reduce plant-warming emissions…”

However, private industry is already wholeheartedly responding to the incentives Buy America engenders.

Just last week, Corning and CommScope announced that they will jointly invest $550 million to expand the companies’ fiber optic cable manufacturing in North Carolina. This American-made fiber optic cable will fulfill an integral part of the BIL’s mission to expand broadband access in the rural United States. And it’s far from the only example of manufacturing growth stemming from Buy America. Last month, Siemens USA announced a $54 million investment in expanding U.S. manufacturing facilities that serve infrastructure markets, creating nearly 300 new jobs.

And, on the clean energy front, the IRA has sponsored the growth of manufacturers as well as rare earth mining. American solar panel manufacturer First Solar specifically credited the Inflation Reduction Act with inspiring its $1.2 billion domestic expansion plans.

Here’s what Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul wrote in official comments submitted to the Commerce Department as it considered BIL implementation for broadband:

“Suggesting that a current lack of U.S. production capacity is reason enough to jettison the application of the entire Buy America policy, or to waive entire categories of products, is shortsighted, dangerous, and in conflict with the requirements imposed by Congress and the expectations of the American taxpayer. Congress has provided ample tools and flexibility to establish a workable Buy America policy that recognizes today’s U.S. production capacity while also maintaining market incentives that will spur future manufacturing investments that strengthen the U.S. industrial base, supply chains, and workforce.”

The Washington Post editorial concedes, “New U.S. supply chains will develop, if enough money is thrown into the effort. But that will take time, and the probable result would be more expensive products.”

They’re right that we have no time to waste. We need to ensure that taxpayer money is reinvested in American workers and industry. The COVID-19 pandemic offered a painful lesson in the importance of strengthening domestic supply chains, and the United States would be foolish to eschew the BIL and IRA’s opportunities to bolster U.S. manufacturing capacity at a time of increasing geopolitical uncertainty.

Join us in telling the Department of Transportation to support American manufacturing and end its 40-year waiver of Buy America requirements for manufactured products.