- President Joe Biden signed an executive order yesterday aimed at increasing government purchases of American-made products, a move that could affect construction firms that do business with the federal government. Most notably for contractors, Biden indicated the Buy American policies will apply to his massive plans for infrastructure and new energy projects.
- "We’ll invest hundreds of billions of dollars in buying American products and materials to modernize our infrastructure, and our competitive strength will increase in a competitive world," he said in remarks. "That means millions of good-paying jobs, using American-made steel and technology, to rebuild our roads, our bridges our ports, and to make them more climate resilient."
- The new policies include beefing up government procurement rules to make it harder for federal agencies to purchase imported products, updating what constitutes an American-made product and raising local-content requirements.
Manufacturing and labor groups including the AFL-CIO applauded the order, which tightens policies already in place.
"The Trump administration used the right words but never put in place policies to affect meaningful change," Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement. "This executive order will close loopholes that allow agencies to sidestep Buy American requirements ... [and] is a good first step in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing."
Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Associated General Contractors of America, said the association is taking a look at the new order and that its ultimate impact will not be known "until we see how each federal agency opts to implement it."
While government purchases are only a small fraction of the U.S. economy — about $586 billion in fiscal 2019, according to the Government Accountability Office — Biden said the move will help forward his agenda to create good-paying union jobs for American workers and stimulate the U.S. economy.
The Buy American order is the latest in a flurry of directives issued by the new president in the days following his inauguration last week. Through executive orders, proclamations and other memoranda, Biden addressed issues such as COVID-19 mitigation, economic relief, combating climate change and advancing racial equity, many of which will have implications for U.S. contractors.
For instance, Biden signed an order directing OSHA to consider a national emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 in the workplace and to issue updated, national guidance on workplace safety for COVID-19.
He also ordered construction work on the U.S.-Mexico border wall to stop and rescinded the national emergency declaration used by former President Donald Trump to divert billions of dollars to the wall from the Defense Department budget.