Murphy Looks to Trump to Support "Buy America" for Defense

by Stephen Singer | Contract Reporter | Hartford Courant

Senator Chris Murphy, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said Wednesday he will appeal to the president for support in a renewed push for federal legislation to boost domestic manufacturing and job creation in the defense industry.

The legislation would benefit workers in Connecticut, including those at hundreds of companies subcontracted by Sikorsky, Electric Boat and Pratt & Whitney.

"The jury is still out whether the Trump administration is really going to put in place policies that will back up their rhetorical 'buy America' claims," said Murphy, who appeared at a press conference at the state Capitol.

"He literally said on the campaign trail, 'My administration is going to be all about buy America and hire America,'" Murphy said. "Well, here's an opportunity to pass a law that will command that more federal jobs are given to American companies."

The American Jobs Matter Act would require the Department of Defense to include the effects on employment in the U.S. when awarding government contracts to manufacturers. It would allow American manufacturing firms to demonstrate how many jobs they would create or keep when winning federal contracts.

Murphy said the Pentagon has spent more than $200 billion on goods manufactured by foreign firms since 2007, "putting American workers out of business," he said.

Critics say "buy America" provisions in national security legislation hamper U.S. security by reducing innovation and increasing costs due to a lack of competitive pricing.

Murphy said resistance to "buy-American" legislation often comes from multinational companies that can increase profit margins by subcontracting work to less-expensive overseas producers. The Defense Department is shortsighted by seeking cost savings on certain parts, even though the overall costs could be lower, Murphy said.

Defense contracts for Connecticut firms were valued at more than $12 billion in 2015, according to the state Office of Military Affairs. Workers in Connecticut, including those at hundreds of subcontractors, make attack helicopters for Sikorsky, submarines at Electric Boat and engines for fighter jets at Pratt & Whitney.

The Department of Defense reported to Congress last June that procurement the previous year totaled about $273 billion, with $11.3 billion, or 4.1 percent, on purchases from "foreign entities."

David R. Berardinelli, sales manager at The Platt Brothers & Co. in Waterbury, a manufacturer of zinc-based alloys and anti-corrosion materials for pipelines and other products, said the company has been directly affected by foreign competition in pipelines, bridges and other public works jobs. He joined Murphy at the news conference.

Congress and states are looking to finance much-needed reconstruction of highways, tunnels and other big-ticket projects, but materials are often not American-made, Berardinelli said.

"The tools and the steel and the things that are coming into this country to do these repairs are all coming from overseas," he said. "We have enough American companies ... to provide these at a reasonable cost. All we need is the support from our government to ensure that happens."

Original article located at: http://www.courant.com/business/hc-defense-manufacturing-20170412-story.html