Senator wants tougher checks on agencies' domestic buys

The government should use the Web to track agencies' waivers from the requirements of the Buy America Act, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said today.

The waiver process, through which an agency can suspend for various reasons the act’s requirements to buy products made in the United States, has not been conducted in the open, Brown said.

“It’s not gotten public attention in the past,” he said. “We are simply saying it’s not transparent, and we’ve simply said now [the waiver request has] got to be posted on a Web site.”

Brown said he’s asking for more disclosure in the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1). But, despite stronger language, the tough issue is “enforcement and making sure the Obama administration doesn’t do what the Bush administration was [doing]: look away.”

Brown wants the waivers posted online in a couple of days of a request and to allow the public to comment on the requests.

“If we start shining light on the waiver process, the government is going to give significantly fewer of these waivers,” he said.

“Ultimately I want taxpayers to know where their dollars are being spent," Brown said. "Are they being spent on American products or products coming from Germany or Mexico?”

The 76-year-old Buy America Act's rules require the government to prefer U.S.-made products over products made in foreign countries. The intent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is to jolt the U.S. economy out of a recession, Brown said. The House is debating the legislation and was expected to vote on it tonight.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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