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Is Joe Biden’s ‘Buy American’ Rule Another Hollow Promise?

July 31, 2021 by  
Filed under Money/Business, News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( Many times, politicians make bold promises and pronouncements for a cheap headline to do something that they never intend to do. Americans hope that Joe Biden’s announcement that the federal government is implementing a ‘Buy American Rule’ with regard to government contracting is real. The Biden Administration, earlier this week, announced a new rule that will incentivize more government contracting using American made products.

Congress has the power to make Biden’s promise law – and they should, but will they?

Almost every American president makes this same promise, yet it has never become reality. Buying American with American tax dollars makes sense, and it is very popular. If you asked the average voter, they likely assume this is already happening. If the Biden administration actually follows through with this promise, they will be engaging in good government policy and something with bi-partisan approval.


It makes perfect sense to spend federal resources on domestically produced products used by the federal government. As The Wall Street Journal reported on July 28, “the Biden administration proposed a rule that would accelerate federal procurement policy to require a higher level of American-made products.” The report indicated that this program would mandate that at least 60 percent of the value of the components of a product sold to the federal government be American made. Current law mandates that at least 55 percent of federally purchased goods be manufactured in the United States. The Biden rule seeks to increase that threshold to 75 percent by the end of the decade. Biden said of the rule, “in recent years, ‘Buy American’ has become a hollow promise.” Hopefully this is not, yet again, another politician making a hollow promise to the American people.

There is a test of this idea right now at the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense is considering whether the federal government will contract with a French aerospace manufacturer to produce refueling tankers for military aircraft versus a superior domestic alternative that is available and already under contract. The European producer of aircraft, Airbus, has partnered with an American defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, to sideline an American-made project. The Pentagon would have to switch from an American manufacturer to a foreign one in direct opposition to this new ‘Buy American’ mantra.

Airbus is trying to game the political system by sending tankers to a U.S.-based manufacturing plant to get around the idea of the ‘Buy American’ push, and they are using powerful friends on Capitol Hill to get approved. Airbus has partnered with an American company to get around the fact that their aircraft is manufactured in Europe.

The fact is the military is in need of updated refueling tankers for missions in faraway Pacific regions. According to Forbes, “the Air Force has spent $1.6 billion flight-testing Pegasus, and it is now certified to refuel the vast majority of combat aircraft in the joint fleet,” yet “there is a possibility that Airbus will offer its much bigger ‘multirole tanker transport’ based on the A330 jetliner, even though the Air Force rejected that solution in a competition ten years ago.” The report indicates that Airbus is getting help from Alabama legislators because the aircraft would be modified into tankers at an Alabama facility in partnership with an American defense contracting company. The bottom line is that these aircraft are made in Europe by a French company clearly not in compliance with the idea of buying American made products.

Not only will the purchase of Airbus tankers violate the letter and spirit of the ‘Buy American’ rule, it will put the taxpayer on the hook for even more cost. The Airbus tanker is bigger and heavier than the American made one that creates unanticipated logistical challenges for the military because of the need for bigger facilities to land these aircraft. Jet fuel and operating costs spike the cost of the Airbus to a far higher level than the American tanker. This seems like a lose-lose situation for American taxpayers and the U.S. military.

The idea of purchasing a combat aircraft from a French company is ridiculous. The French don’t have any need for refueling tankers, because they don’t have the footprint of the United States military when it comes to fighting wars and protecting allies. France, as a nation, doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to military affairs, and it makes zero sense to purchase military hardware from them. It also makes no sense to switch from the American made tanker, who already won the contract, to the inferior European alternative.

The tanker fight between an American made tanker and a French one is a great way to test the Biden administration’s commitment to the ‘Buy American’ rule. We shall see if this is a real change in policy or yet another hollow promise by a politician in need of a good headline.

Columnist; Steve Sherman

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