Associations Speak Up About “Buy America” Policy

Associations Speak Up About “Buy America” Policy

In response to this week’s release of new “Buy America” guidance from the Biden administration for projects being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) published the following statements on their websites:

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) President and CEO Debra Phillips stated:

NEMA recognizes that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the country’s infrastructure through digitalization, automation and electrification of our economy. However, its successful implementation requires a reliable, resilient supply chain.

As U.S. manufacturers are facing ongoing, global supply chain disruptions, sustained tariffs, and higher prices for goods and products, NEMA urges the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies and industry partners to carefully consider how to best implement Buy America(n) requirements to alleviate these challenges while supporting sustainable, high paying jobs domestically.

NEMA is reviewing the proposed requirements and will share specific suggestions to avoid supply-chain driven delays on the promise of creating an accessible, electrified transportation system, modernizing buildings and lighting, building a more resilient grid, and increasing efficiency of manufacturing.

Last week, NEMA sent a letter to OMB Director Young and Made in America Director Drake with NEMA’s detailed requests on how the IIJA Buy America(n) provisions should be implemented to maximize the historic opportunity to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement:

AGC of America supports sensible efforts to effectively incentivize the growth of America’s domestic manufacturing capacity. Instead, the Biden administration is doubling down on failed procurement policies with its new Buy America mandate. This is the kind of red tape initiative that undermines Americans’ confidence in the federal governments’ ability to effectively use their tax dollars.

It makes no sense to place unrealistic limitations on firms’ ability to source key materials at a time when prices for those products are skyrocketing and supplies are limited. Supply chain shortages are already prompting firms to avoid bidding on new projects, as the Army Corps of Engineers discovered on a recent project that received zero bids because of concrete scarcities in parts of the country.

Worse, the new mandate requires individual federal agencies to run waivers by the White House for materials not made in America. This means that contractors, in addition to facing a patchwork of inconsistent, and likely conflicting, guidelines from individual agencies’ waiver processes, will also have to wait as the highest office in the land verifies them. This is like asking the U.S. Department of Education to verify every child’s permission slip to miss a day of school. Instead of improving infrastructure for the benefit of communities across the nation, firms will have to spend more time waiting for federal officials to decide whether a project is in compliance with the administration’s latest layer of red tape.

Whatever minimal gains in domestic construction material production this new mandate might temporarily generate will be offset by the increased cost of constructing new projects, slower schedules to build those projects and the fact some key projects could be hamstrung from moving forward.

Americans were right to be excited about the potential for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make our economy more efficient, our commutes faster, our water safer and our economy stronger. But this new mandate will leave too many taxpayers wondering where the trillion dollars went while they are still stuck in traffic, still hearing about boil water orders and still wondering why we can’t have better transit systems.

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