This story has been updated with additional information.
Following up on a campaign promise, the Biden administration vowed to insist on using a strict “Buy American” procurement policy for purchasing products, such as cars and trucks, used by the federal government.
Biden noted in a speech the federal government annually spends approximately $600 billion in government procurement to keep the country safe and secure. A law on the books for almost a century mandates taxpayer funds must be spent on American-made products to support American jobs and businesses, Biden noted Monday.
However, the letter of the law was ignored by the Trump administration, which granted exemptions so companies could substitute materials purchased in other countries for American-made products, Biden cited $3 billion in projects from the Defense Department that didn’t use steel from American companies.
Biden said in 2018 the federal government spent nearly $300 million on foreign engines and on vehicles instead of buying American vehicles and engines from American companies, putting Americans to work.
This mandate provides Biden to make good on another campaign promise to convert the U.S. government fleet to electric vehicles. It’s uncertain if that means just battery-electrics or a mix of plug-ins as well as hybrids. How long it will take to complete the switch isn’t known either.
The U.S. government fleet had 645,000 vehicles in 2019, including the U.S. Postal Service accounting for 35% of those vehicles, reported CNBC.com. Those government cars, trucks and utility vehicles rolled up 4.5 billion miles and consumed 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the General Services Administration.
“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of the American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden said. “That means we are going to use taxpayers’ money to rebuild America. We’ll buy American products and support American jobs, union jobs.”
Biden’s speech was hailed by manufacturing-based organizations, such as the United Auto Workers and Alliance for American Manufacturing — to organizations that are typically at different points of the political compass. Both the UAW and the AAM have championed Buy American policies at the federal, state and local level over the years but globalization has weakened the provisions as suppliers find goods less expensive overseas.
Nonetheless, UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement issued after the President spoke said, “With the stroke of a pen, President Joe Biden today sent a strong message to American workers that our government will do all it can to support buying American products, made here by American workers, recommitting to the men and women of working America. Through today’s order, the Biden Administration commits the vast power of the U.S. government to U.S. citizen made products.”
Gamble added Biden’s action was a “powerful statement of solidarity with our hard-working brothers and sisters.”
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, also lauded Biden’s announcement.
“We strongly support efforts to strengthen Buy America and other domestic content preference policies, and we are pleased that the president is initiating a process in the first week of the new administration to do so,” Paul said.
“It’s essential to close loopholes, reduce waivers, broaden coverage to more federal spending and more manufactured products and strengthen origin standards for determining whether a product is produced in the United States. The law should mean what it says: an American product should be truly Made in America.”