Buy American, buy often!

FY18 OmnibusBuy American, buy often!Pentagon needs to buy the best equipment at the best value.

National Security,  | Quick Take
Mar 23, 2018  | 3 min read | Print Article

The Pentagon is where the lion’s share of discretionary spending takes place, so that’s where Congress particularly targets its Buy American requirements. We’re providing the reading public with a handy, one-stop shopping guide to the ways Congress wants to force the Pentagon to buy only items made in America.

As we have written many times before: our troops deserve the best equipment at the best value, no matter where it’s made. Let’s call these Buy American provisions what they are: a backdoor form of earmarking.

First, credit where credit is due: the decades-long requirement that the Pentagon ship coal from Pennsylvania to U.S. military facilities in Germany is nowhere to be found. We gave this ridiculous earmark our Golden Fleece, which led to a successful Congressional effort to strip the provision. It took two successful amendments on the House Floor, two years in a row, but the House Appropriations Committee seems to have gotten the hint. No more directing Pennsylvania coal to Kaiserslautern.

But, unfortunately this form of protectionism still exists in many other places. All of the items below are required to be manufactured in the United States:

Section 8106: Welded shipboard anchor and mooring chain 4 inches in diameter and under.

Section 8025: Carbon, alloy or armor steel plate.

Section 8046: Ball and roller bearings.

Section 8050: Super computers. (Okay, we won’t quibble with this one. We have enough problems with foreign hackers hacking into our systems, imagine if it started out that way.)

Section 8105: United States flags.

Section 8117: Auxiliary equipment (including pumps) for shipboard services, propulsion equipment (including engines, reduction gears and propellers); shipboard cranes; and spreaders for shipboard cranes for the T-AO(X) shipbuilding program.

In a teensy piece of what we thought was good news, Section 8059 gives the Secretary of Defense some waiver authority regarding the procurement of defense items from foreign sources. But, wait, wait, not so fast Mr. Secretary. That waiver doesn’t apply to “public vessels, ball and roller bearings, food, and clothing and textile materials”. But anchor and mooring chain or steel plate? Go for it!

These provisions have been placed in the Pentagon appropriations bills for many years. Year after year. It’s time for Congress to get out of the business of forcing the Pentagon to buy certain items from the U.S. simply to satisfy a parochial interest.

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Let the Pentagon buy the best equipment at the best value.