Stabenow: Close ‘loopholes’ in Buy America law

Melissa Nann Burke

Washington — Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said Friday she plans legislation aiming to close loopholes in the existing law encouraging the federal government to buy American-made products when available.

Her bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, seeks to standardize and simplify how federal agencies comply with and enforce the Buy America Act, which requires — with exceptions — that only materials and supplies produced in the United States be used to fulfill federal construction and procurement contracts.

The legislation would also make it harder for federal officials to justify waivers under the law and require agencies to report to Congress annually the amount they spent on foreign-made goods.

“It’s common sense that American tax dollars be used to purchase products made in America, not overseas,” Stabenow said in a statement.

“The products needed by our federal agencies, including critical defense systems, are being designed and made by talented Michigan workers and workers across the country. American jobs and American businesses need to be our highest priority."

The Buy American requirement may be waived in some cases, such as when a product is not available domestically in sufficient quantity or quality, or when the product would be used overseas.

A February audit from the Defense Department’s inspector general found that the Air Force failed to consistently enforce the Buy America provisions — in some cases omitting Buy America contract clauses because they were unfamiliar with the law’s requirements.

Stabenow wants uniform procedures for each federal agency to follow when they seek waivers from the Buy America requirement, and rules for federal agencies to ensure that a project isn’t split up for purposes of avoiding the legal requirements, according to a draft of the bill.

She seeks procedures to investigate instances when the head of a federal agency improperly waives Buy America requirements.

Peters said federal contract spending should be on products made by American workers, as an effort to help create jobs, but also to protect national security, particularly when it comes to equipment for service members.

“I’m proud to join Sen. Stabenow in introducing this common-sense legislation that will improve the enforcement of Buy American rules to help boost Michigan’s manufacturing industry and grow our economy,” he said in a statement.

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