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Buy American

For many years, states have considered legislation requiring public agencies, local governments, schools, and other governing boards to fulfill contracts with products manufactured in the United States. Often, this legislation is limited to public works but sometimes the mandate is more broadly written to capture all information and communications technology (ICT). While ITAPS supports economic growth from domestic manufacturing, legislation of this type could limit the availability of ICT products and increase costs to taxpayers. ITAPS also maintains that given the rapid pace of innovation of ICT, governmental agencies will be challenged to maximize competition among ICT products and suppliers and achieve the highest possible value if these products are excluded.

Equally troublesome in “Buy American” proposals are the ambiguous terms used in the waiver processes for American-manufactured requirements. The bills often require a vendor seeking a waiver to either demonstrate that: 1) the requirement is inconsistent with the public interest; 2) the necessary manufactured product is not made in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities and of a satisfactory quality; or 3) the inclusion of U.S. manufactured goods will increase the cost of the overall project contract by an unreasonable amount. In most instances, none of the key phrases -- “inconsistent with the public interest,” “sufficient and reasonably available quantities,” “satisfactory quality,” and “unreasonable amount” -- in reference to the increase of the cost of the overall cost increases to the project are defined, leaving the potential for unequal treatment across similar projects. Our position on “Buy American” bills is to seek an exemption for ICT products, which is consistent with the federal Buy American Act after recognition by the U.S. Congress that the information technology marketplace has become international in scope.

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