White House Releases New Details on Made in America Council to Make Domestic Preferences More Uniform

The White House has announced the launch of a Made in America Council, which will be the overarching group to “coordinate and advance the Made in America Office’s work across the entirety of the Federal Government.” This represents a new strategy for things like the Buy American Act and related policies, because it will try to centralize these efforts to some degree, instead of having them disbursed throughout the various federal agencies. Below are some of the highlights from this announcement.

As we’ve written about, GAO has found in the past that agencies had disparate systems and interpretations for handling things like waivers and exceptions to the Buy American Act. To improve the way domestic preference policies work, the President also issued an executive order in January 2021 that outlined some changes to domestic preference policies and processes, including the appointment of a Made in America Director. Now, a year later, there are additional details on the Made in America Council.

So, what is the Made in America Council? Per the post issued by Made in America Director Celeste Drake, it is a “a regular forum and community for agencies to collaborate as they work to strengthen the use of Federal procurement and Federal financial assistance to increase reliance on domestic supply chains and reduce the need for waivers over time.”

Here are some of the goals of the council:

  • Work to efficiently implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
  • Share data across agencies to promote use of domestic sources
  • Come up with best practices and recommendations that all agencies can use “to help build and expand critical U.S. supply chains”

The council is expected to start meeting this month, and have representatives from various agencies.

The council, along with the Made in America Office, has four principles as outlined in an OMB memo:

  1. “achieving consistency across agencies”
  2. “gathering data to support decision-making to make U.S. supply chains more resilient”
  3. “bringing increased transparency to waivers in order to send clear demand signals to domestic producers”
  4. “concentrating efforts on changes that will have the greatest impact”

The OMB memo sets out many of the policies to guide agencies in applying domestic preference rules, such as how to submit waivers to the Made in America Director and “management strategies to avoid and limit the need for waivers.” Clearly, the goal is to not become overly reliant on waivers. In addition, “beginning January 23, 2022, agencies must update their reports to address ongoing efforts to grow U.S. manufacturing and comply with Made in America Laws.”

Aside from setting up the Made in America Office, and now the Council, the efforts of the administration have also created some tangible effects for contractors. One is a website that has guidance for contractors, but also a list of waivers and whether they have been approved by agencies. For instance, there is a waiver request for a T700 Turboshaft Engine based on “Mission failure due to inability to procure T700 Engine parts.”

Kudos to the government for making the domestic preference policies more transparent and uniform across agencies. If these efforts succeed, it should be easier for contractors to compete and have a better handle on how to navigate domestic preference policies, including the waiver process.

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