The American Shipbuilding Suppliers Association (ASSA) has released a Statement of Policy today defending and supporting the work of House Armed Services Committee (HASC) lawmakers who are working to pass legislation that will gradually strengthen existing “Buy American” requirements on the Defense Department’s largest Programs of Record (PoR).
The legislation would include language in the 2021 defense authorization bill directing that major defense acquisition programs “shall be deemed to be manufactured substantially all from materials and components produced, or manufactured in the United States.” The current statutes describe “substantially all” as 50% — the new provision would increase that to 75% in October 2021 and then to 100% by 2026.
ASSA says it supports the position of Congressman Donald Norcross (D.-N.J.). “If we have not learned our lesson during this pandemic, when are we going to learn it,” he said during the House Armed Services Committee’s mark-up of the bill.
“As a nation, we’re currently struggling to manufacture adequate health care materials to protect our nation; we don’t want to be in the position where we can’t design, build and equip U.S. warships without a dependency on other countries,” said George Williams, CEO of ASSA.
By law, U.S. Navy ships are required to be built in US shipyards (10 USC §7309). The national security justification for this is clear. However, says ASSA, “there is no such requirement for critical Hull, Mechanical & Electrical (HM&E) components—propulsion systems, machinery control systems, shafts, bearings, ships service power generation and many others—to be manufactured in the U.S.”
ASSA’s position is that Congressional direction is needed for components for all Navy surface ships and unmanned vessels to be required to be designed, engineered, manufactured and assembled in the U.S. “Continued foreign encroachment on american manufacturers is a matter of economics and national security. It’s time for this to be a National priority,” said Williams.
“ASSA wants a seat at the table early on when the Navy is designing the ships so they can be ready with the components required as a reliable, ever present, domestic source for U.S. Shipyards,” Williams said. “Instead, these decisions are relegated to shipyard primes or their foreign-owned partners, and there is no requirement for sourcing these components within the U.S. shipbuilding supplier industrial base.”
Williams says this is decimating the American shipbuilding suppliers industry so much so that one day, the U.S. may be totally dependent upon foreign countries to defend the nation.
Williams cites a related piece of legislation that is relevant to this particular issue. The FY 2021 Defense Appropriations Act under the guidance of Chairman Pete Visclosky (D.-Ind,) included a requirement that all preliminary requirements development, performance specification development, and related efforts for a host of new Navy ship classes now seeking R&D funding must include specifications that “all hull, mechanical, and electrical components are manufactured in the United States.”
Representative Norcross’ Amendment includes a time table, incrementally raising the domestic percentages on an annual basis. Some lawmakers are saying they support the increase in jobs the Buy American legislation would generate but worry that Representative Norcross’ proposed timeline is too aggressive.
“We don’t believe we have been aggressive enough to save American jobs and manufacturers,” said Williams.
ASSA says the Administration has been espousing these theories since a September 2018 report was released on “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.” However, in the absence of clear direction from the Navy on domestic sourcing of critical components, Congress must provide such direction through provisions like the Norcross amendment and the Visclosky-led appropriations bill that require key critical components to be designed, engineered, manufactured and assembled in the U.S.
“ASSA strongly supports the Buy American provisions in both of these bills. It’s time to make Buy American America’s priority,” said Williams.