WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing examining innovation in the federal procurement process where he emphasized the need to incentivize American-made products to create jobs in Ohio and across the country. Portman highlighted his bipartisan bills, which became law in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that aim to make the government a smarter buyer on behalf of the American people: the BuyAmerican.gov Act which established a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law; the Make PPE in America Act to strengthen efforts to onshore production of PPE in the United States by requiring agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE as well as his Build America, Buy America bill to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure projects.
A transcript of his opening statement can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the witnesses as well, and particularly, Ms. Correa. Thank you for your many years of service to the Department of Homeland Security. You were there at the inception, and congratulations on your retirement.
“The United States government spends a lot of money each year from the taxpayers on contracts for goods and services. In 2020, that was about $665 billion, a 50 percent increase from just 2015. Some of that increase was due to coronavirus, we understand that, but not all of it.
“We’ve got to wait and see what the contracting outcomes will be for this year as federal agencies contend with the skyrocketing inflation, because likely that will, of course, drive the numbers up further.
“Procurement officials also face a lot of other challenges in the area, of course, of cybersecurity, which this Committee spends a lot of time on, and also workforce and the need to get more procurement officials into the government.
“I think we’ve got to focus today on another issue which is Buy America, because that’s where this Committee has taken a lead.
“We’ve got to do all we can do to protect American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that tax dollars spent on American government procurement isn’t used to create jobs overseas when it can be used to create jobs here.
“I’m grateful that one area that remains bipartisan is this Buy America and Made in America approach. It’s been the law for nearly a century, but federal agencies have, in my view, granted too many waivers to Buy America.
“Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in very limited circumstances, for example, when there’s no American made products available, or it will significantly increase the cost.
“Federal agencies, however, in my view, overuse this waiver authority, and until recently, there wasn’t an easily accessible government-wide system tracking the use and the abuse of these waivers. So I’m pleased we made progress on that.
“The bipartisan BuyAmerican.gov act is now law. That’s my legislation with Senator Stabenow, which was part of the infrastructure bill, and the administration has now issued an executive order creating this public website, MadeinAmerica.gov.
“So I’m really pleased to see that which will help by, among other things, better identifying opportunities for American companies to build a contract with the government. It mandates that any federal agency requesting a waiver to Made in America requirements publicly submit it for everyone to see.
“There are also may be American manufacturers unknown to government that can meet these needs, and that’s what this website will be helpful to provide. That transparency is good for American jobs.
“I was also pleased to work with Chairman Peters on something called “Build America, Buy America.” It’s a title in the recently passed infrastructure bill as well. That title updated the Buy America requirements to ensure the money spent on infrastructure goes to American manufacturing and American workers. American steel as an example. Some of which is made in Ohio.
“We also included the Make PPE in America Act part of that legislation that requires the personal protective gear critical to responding to the public health crisis here at home is made in America. When we talk to PPE manufacturers about re-shoring production to America, the biggest thing we heard was we need long-term contracts to be able to make the investments and that’s in that legislation, the multi-year contracts as required by the legislation, will give them the certainty they need to make these investments in the United States.
“Having passed all these laws, we might say that 2021 was the year of Buy America. These are really historic changes, particularly in the infrastructure bill and this Committee should be proud of the work it’s done on a bipartisan basis to improve these programs. Again, I thank the witnesses for being here. We look forward to your comments today and your ideas on improving the federal procurement system further and making the government a smarter buyer on behalf of the American people.”