Uncle Sam Wants US Defense Suppliers
Controversial bill retains ''Buy American'' measure after veto threat
WASHINGTON, DC - The Defense Department has reportedly dropped its opposition to a controversial bill on Capitol Hill that would mandate that the US military shun overseas suppliers in purchasing parts for essential weapons systems.
According to The Financial Times, the bill - HR 1588 - which had faced a threatened veto from the White House, was watered down in negotiations between Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
In a "discussion draft" dated September 10 obtained by the paper, the Pentagon is given wider authority to disregard the provision, permitting the defense secretary to grant waivers "in the interest of national defense."
But the new language would still force the Pentagon to issue the waivers on a product-by-product basis, which could cause significant delays.
"We would be sending a very strong signal to our trading partners that we were trying to eliminate international suppliers from our defense programs," said Jon Etherton of the Arlington, Virginia-headquartered Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), which represents defense suppliers.
He told the paper that, in practice, such waivers were rarely issued.
The "Buy America" measure, which was inserted into the annual defense authorization bill by Hunter, has been watched intensely by defense contractors in both the US and abroad who fear that huge extra costs to the industry could result from the bill.
The failure to strip the entire measure from the bill has angered John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who this week wrote to cabinet officials warning it would harm US allies that had assisted in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said he fears "trade retaliation" if the measure were passed by Congress, which could "jeopardize our $50 billion annual trade surplus in aerospace products."
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