Report: DOD has Buy America Waivers Piling Up

By Matthew McMullan

Senator Chris Murphy calls for a hard look at loopholes in Buy America preferences.

An interesting new report from the office of Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) released today contained the following data point: Since FY 2007, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has granted 274,186 waivers of the Buy American Act, which was originally set in place way back in 1933 to make sure that public money is spent on – and therefore supports the manufacture of – American-made goods.  

That’s a lot of waivers. There are eight different exemptions to the Buy American Act that can be claimed to gain a waiver, but Murphy’s office found most of those granted since ’07 fell under the blanket exemption for items used overseas – a specious rule, especially when the U.S. was engaged in two foreign wars and has personnel stationed all around the world. All told, the Murphy report found waivers since ’07 amounted to $163.4 billion worth of contracts to foreign manufacturers.

$163.4 billion, with a 'B.' Holy smokes!

Said the senator:

This is a simple concept: the United States government should give preference to American manufacturers when it purchases goods with taxpayer dollars. But right now that’s not happening. … Too many talented, hardworking manufacturers in Connecticut are out of work because the federal government isn’t doing enough to prioritize American jobs when making purchases. The Department of Defense needs to step it up and put American workers first whenever possible.

He’s right, DOD should. Murphy’s even got a bill up for consideration – the American Jobs Matter Act – that would make domestic job creation a necessary consideration when looking at procurement bids, which would make Defense consider American workers.

But when you get right down to it, this is a security issue as well: A huge chunk of the U.S. defense industrial base has gone offshore, and that’s put our military supply chains at risk.