- During his annual State of the Union address Tuesday, President Joe Biden detailed his standard to require all construction materials on federal infrastructure projects to be made in the U.S.
- The president used several opportunities throughout the speech to tout what he called key steps in boosting the economy and fostering his “Buy America” mentality. He did not say when the proposed standards would be released.
- Biden listed some of the types of materials and projects that would fall under the policy: “Lumber, glass, drywall, fiberoptic cable, and on my watch, American roads, bridges, and American highways are going to be made with American products as well,” he said in the speech.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes the Build America, Buy America Act provision, which impacts all federally funded infrastructure projects in the United States, not just those that receive IIJA funding.
These requirements apply to an entire infrastructure project, even if the project is funded by both federal and non-federal funds under one or more awards.
The Biden administration’s proposed standards are more rigorous than past Buy America programs, which mainly focused only on iron and steel and only covered certain projects, according to a White House statement released a day before the speech.
“This giant loophole meant projects could be built with other materials sourced from anywhere in the world,” the statement said. “The Biden-Harris administration is working to close this loophole and implement new standards, once and for all, so materials for roads and bridges, airports, transit, rail, water, high-speed internet, and clean energy infrastructure are made in America and support American jobs.”
At least one construction industry trade group, the National Utility Contractors Association, criticized Biden’s plan to source materials domestically.
"Our projects require a very complex mix of materials, some of which are not domestically manufactured,” NUCA CEO Doug Carlson said in a statement. “Our nation’s utility construction industry literally digs into fresh American soil to complete our projects, so we support sourcing materials from American manufacturers.”
However, he said, foreign materials are often much cheaper and can keep costs down, while a one-size-fits-all solution often doesn’t fit individual projects, many of which require components are not made in the United States. A delay on a single part can delay a project and inflate project costs, Carlson said.
He called for Congress to remove regulatory barriers and to implement domestic sourcing requirements to better support projects meeting deadlines.
"Each project should be covered by a manufacturing standard that fits available project resources and domestic availability,” he said.