Buried at the the bottom of a press release celebrating the fact that an amendment U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy proposed was actually passed by the Senate was a tidbit of information with outsized import.
The amendment of which Murphy was so proud requires more oversight on the use of waivers by the Department of Defense, as a way to get around the Buy American Act. The important tidbit was just how much money those waivers might have cost Connecticut.
Connecticut is proud of its shipbuilding and aerospace industrial base. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, for example, overflowed with joy when the U.S. Navy announced the establishment of a new “Undersea Warfighting Development Center” at the base in New London.
“Our region and the base have long been recognized as the center of excellence for undersea training, support, and development for the Navy,” he said.
Then there’s the recent revelation of the impending sale of Sikorsky aircraft by its parent company, UTC.
“Connecticut and Sikorsky have a long, mutually beneficial relationship, dating back to 1929,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said in a release after the announcement. “I have fought for a steady supply of Sikorsky helicopters because they are the best made in the world and create good-paying jobs throughout the state. These jobs include everything from engineers to assembly line workers, at manufacturers both large and small, across the supply chain.”
So when Murphy releases a report that says the Department of Defense granted 307,123 waivers to the Buy American Act over the last eight years, the local impact is a good question to ask.
The Buy American Act, initially passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Herbert Hoover in 1933, requires the federal government to first buy American-made products. The waivers used by the Department of Defense allow the purchase of foreign-made products instead of U.S.-made products if the purchases will be used overseas.
The result, according to Murphy, is $176.8 billion spent on goods manufactured by foreign companies, $5.4 billion of which were spent in the shipbuilding and aerospace industries.
“I’m thrilled there was bipartisan support for my amendment to toughen Buy American rules at the Pentagon,” Murphy said in a release. “By passing my amendment, the Senate has taken the commonsense stand that American taxpayer dollars should be spent on American-made goods when possible. This will keep us safer and help create jobs in the United States instead of overseas.”
Murphy’s amendment proposes changes to H.R.1735, the National Defense Authorization Act.
Jordan Fenster is an award-winning freelance journalist. He lives with his family in Fairfield County. He can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.