Buy American

On March 7, 2024, the Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) announced a proposed rule to rescind a longstanding general waiver of Buy America requirements for manufactured products (the “Manufactured Products Waiver”).  If finalized, this would be a major change for the agency, reversing a policy that has been in place for more than 40 years.

FHWA has imposed Buy America requirements for domestic iron and steel on its projects since 1978 (see 23 U.S.C. § 313; 23 CFR § 635.410), but in 1983, the agency determined that it was in the public interest to waive the requirement as to manufactured products based on the agency’s belief that manufactured products were not used in federal highway projects in sufficient quantities to have an effect on the overall cost of a project and therefore did not require Buy America protections.  That general waiver has been in place ever since.

This change in policy comes in the wake of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Build America, Buy America (“BABA”) provisions, which expanded Buy America coverage broadly in federal financial assistance programs for infrastructure.  BABA requires that all steel, iron, construction materials, and manufactured products used in such products be “produced in the United States.”  BABA also discourages the use of general applicability waivers like FHWA’s Manufactured Products Waiver and required review of existing waivers. 

FHWA sought comments on its longstanding manufactured products waiver in March 2023 and received over 9,400 comments from the public.  Commenters included manufacturers, labor organizations, construction contractors, industry associations, State departments of transportation, and even members of Congress.  Based on a consideration of this feedback and in recognition of other domestic content policies, including Executive Order 14005, “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” FHWA is proposing to discontinue its Manufactured Products Waiver and modify its regulations to include domestic content requirements for manufactured products.Continue Reading Federal Highway Administration Announces Proposed Rule Ending Longstanding Buy America Waiver for Manufactured Products

On February 15, 2024, the Department of Defense (“DOD”) issued a final rule that increases the domestic content requirements for defense procurements. 

The new rule amends the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) to implement Executive Order 14005 (“EO”).  The EO was intended to strengthen the requirements of the Buy American Act (“BAA”) by, among

Domestic sourcing requirements are not new, but the Government is always developing new tools for increasing the sourcing of goods from the U.S. and allied countries.  Both sides of the political aisle have marched to a drumbeat of increased domestic sourcing for the past several years.  Most recently, the Biden Administration implemented Executive Order 14005 to “maximize” the U.S. Government’s purchase of goods and services produced in the United States and Executive Order 14104 to increase domestic manufacturing and commercialization in certain research and development supported by federal funding.  The ongoing bi-partisan support for bolstering domestic sourcing is illustrated no better than through this year’s NDAA, which focuses on expanding the domestic supply chain for materials and supplies critical to the U.S. military, encouraging the purchase of domestic end items, and providing more opportunities for the Department of Defense (“DoD”) to engage with and purchase from domestic businesses.Continue Reading Key Domestic Sourcing Provisions of the House and Senate Versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

On May 12, 2023, the Department of Treasury issued long-awaited guidance addressing the so-called domestic content “bonus credit” available under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (“IRA”).  As we have discussed elsewhere in detail, the IRA incorporates extensions of the existing clean energy tax credits under IRC section 45 and section 48 and establishes new “technology neutral” versions of these credits (pursuant to sections 45Y and 48E) that will become available starting in 2025.  At the same time, the IRA also establishes a new 10% domestic content bonus credit that may be claimed in combination with these tax credits provided that the taxpayer: (1) uses U.S.-made iron and steel during construction of the energy-generation facility; and (2) ensures that the cost of any domestic manufactured products that are components of the facility meets a specified domestic content threshold.

The IRA statutory provision left open several key questions regarding how these domestic content requirements would work in practice (including, for example, how the threshold percentage would be calculated).  Last Friday, Treasury issued long-awaited guidance (Notice 2023-38 or the “Notice”) that, among other things, addresses: (1) the contours of the “iron and steel” requirement; and (2) the method by which the adjusted percentage is to be calculated.  While the guidance is consistent with traditional Buy America principles in certain respects, it also introduces both new concepts and new terminology — particularly with regards to the domestic content percentage calculation — which we discuss in detail below. Continue Reading Treasury Releases Long-Awaited Guidance for Domestic Content Bonus Credit Under Inflation Reduction Act

On November 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) published two proposed waiver notices with request for comments related to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Build America, Buy America Act (“BABA”).  Both notices stated that DOT’s existing temporary waiver for construction materials would not be extended past its expiration on November 10, 2022.  One notice proposes a public interest waiver for certain narrow categories of contracts and solicitations to continue transitioning the construction materials standard.  The other notice proposes a public interest waiver for de minimis costs, small grants, and minor components.  Comments are due November 20, 2022 for both notices.Continue Reading Department of Transportation Issues Two Proposed Waiver Notices for Build America, Buy America

Last December, President Biden issued Executive Order 14057, “Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability,” which directed the government to adopt cleaner and more sustainable procurement practices, with the ultimate objective of net-zero emissions by 2050

Pursuant to that directive, GSA has issued a new RFI seeking information regarding domestically manufactured solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and systems, as well as PV system installation.  GSA intends to use the information to develop a solar PV procurement strategy and a procurement standard for use in future solicitations — including solicitations for Power Purchase Agreements (PPA), Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs), Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs), and other vehicles. 

Given the RFI’s emphasis on sourcing and country of origin, it is possible that any new procurement standards for civilian contracting would parallel existing regulations at DFARS 252.225-7017, which generally require DoD contractors to make use of PV devices originating from the United States or certain designated or qualifying countries.  Of course, the ultimate impact of the RFI on future procurement strategy remains to be seen.  What is certain, however, is that the Administration is committed to clean technology procurements and that domestic preferences remain an overriding and central concern. 

Comments in response to the RFI are due by November 18, 2022.  More detail about specific topics covered in the RFI is below.Continue Reading GSA Issues Request for Information on Photovoltaic Systems

On July 28, 2022, the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) published a Request for Information (“RFI”) on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Build America, Buy America Act (“BABA”).  As discussed in our previous post, BABA expanded Buy America preferences to cover all infrastructure projects and sets new domestic content standards for federal financial assistance programs.  The RFI focuses specifically on implementing these domestic content standards for construction materials, which were not subject to the Buy America regime prior to BABA.  Given the wide range of products that might conceivably constitute a “construction material,” industry participants would be wise to closely monitor both the RFI and DOT’s implementation progress and to take steps to ensure that policymakers understand their views on the subject.Continue Reading DOT Seeks Additional Stakeholder Input on Build America, Buy America Implementation

Last Friday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) took a major step in furtherance of the Biden Administration’s goal of connecting all Americans to broadband by releasing its widely anticipated Notice of Funding Opportunity (“NOFO”) for the landmark $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (“BEAD”) Program, along with NOFOs for two smaller programs. 

On April 18, 2022, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) published a memorandum entitled “Initial Implementation Guidance on Application of Buy America Preference in Federal Financial Assistance Programs for Infrastructure” (“OMB Guidance”).  OMB M-22-11.  The OMB Guidance supplements the Build America, Buy America Act (“BABA”) provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”), which was enacted in November 2021.  In addition, OMB issued a Notice of Listening Sessions and Request for Information (“RFI”) on April 21, 2022 seeking public input on BABA implementation.  Public comments are due by May 23, 2022.
Continue Reading Infrastructure Update: OMB Issues New Buy America Guidance for Federal Infrastructure Projects

On December 30, 2021, the FAR Council issued a final rule to update the trade agreements thresholds implemented under the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”).  The new thresholds take effect January 1, 2022.

The TAA thresholds are adjusted every two years and set the value a contract must meet or exceed in order for the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (“WTO GPA”) and free trade agreements (“FTAs”) to apply.  For supply, service, and construction contracts that meet or exceed the stated thresholds, Buy American Act (“BAA”) requirements are waived in accordance with the TAA, and the Government is required to treat eligible products and services from designated countries on an equal basis as domestic products and services.

The updated thresholds, to be listed in FAR 25.402(b), are provided below.Continue Reading New Trade Agreements Act Thresholds Take Effect January 1, 2022