We’re able to make it and do it in the USA then, argues President Trump, we should. Today in Wisconsin, President Trump will sign his Buy American, Hire American executive order. According to the administration, the order will revive and strengthen enforcement of the country’s procurement and hiring rules, keeping taxpayer dollars and jobs in the United States and balancing fair-trade agreement outcomes. Here’s a glance at what federal agencies and contractors can expect from the executive order.
SPIRIT OF THE LAWS
While we already have laws on the books meant to promote American services and products, federal agencies and contractors may by-pass these laws and regulations in order to save money (federal agencies) or increase profits (contractors), according to the administration. Too often, federal agencies grant waivers to the rules so that goods and services can be procured from foreign sources more inexpensively. And too often, federal contractors may seek waivers or find loopholes that allow them to offer foreign-sourced goods and services at prices domestic sourcing just can’t beat. Further, even though a contract bid may look purely domestic, many times foreign sourcing is hidden several layers deep. While agencies and contractors may follow the letter of procurement laws, which offers waivers to buy-American rules under certain circumstances, neither are necessarily following the spirit of the laws. Time to follow the spirit of the law.
One way contractors may deflate contract pricing to be more competitive is by sidestepping or cheating on H-1B visas. H-1B visas are those non-immigrant visas meant for hiring highly skilled foreign labor in pretty limited specialty disciplines. However, according to the administration, some may abuse that system and, instead, hire foreign employees in large numbers in order to pay lower wages and save money. The Hire American part of the executive order intends to put a stop to those sorts of practices, and the Secretaries of State, Labor, Justice, and Homeland Security will be responsible for enforcing the H-1B visa laws more strictly, again, in the spirit of the laws.
So to help revive the spirit of the law, the executive order will raise waiver review to the highest levels. That means procurement offices will have to seek approval for waivers to buy-American procurement laws from agency heads, and procurement officials will have to dig a little deeper to understand the contractors’ sourcing of goods and services when considering bids. These moves will more squarely put responsibility for Buy American, Hire American success on the shoulders of President Trump’s senior government leadership.
Achieving the ends of President Trump’s executive order will require a good deal of internal analysis, and that work should begin very shortly. That will mean top-to-bottom reviews across the federal government, evaluations to determine the extent to which agencies are taking advantage of waivers and loopholes and the processes and policies in place that are either being bypassed or simply ignored. Then, agencies will have to produce plans to correct the errors. By the end of the year or in early CY2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will both report findings of the evaluation and recommend a way ahead to the President.
Able to Make it in the USA
I’m reminded of an early 80s International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (I.L.G) jingle our old Zenith television burned into my young mind as clearly as McDonald’s Big Mac jingle: “Look for the union label / when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse. / Remember somewhere our union’s sewing, / our wages going to feed the kids, and run the house. / We work hard, but who’s complaining? / Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way! / So always look for the union label, / it says we’re able to make it in the USA!”