Buy America

2/17/2011

[PDF version of signed letter]

Dear Colleague:

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), Congress and the Obama Administration have provided transit agencies with unprecedented opportunities to replace and expand vehicle fleets, restore and modernize aging infrastructure, reduce emissions and greenhouse gasses, and engage in procurements that had been deferred or cancelled due to the current economic situation.  I am writing to remind you of the importance of ensuring that your purchases carry out the intent of the first goal of the Recovery Act—to "preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery."

Congress and the Obama Administration asked Americans to provide $787 billion to help avoid an economic catastrophe and restore and modernize America’s infrastructure.  In return, the Federal Government asks recipients of Recovery Act funds to be held accountable to the American public by using these resources to maximize opportunities to put Americans back to work and to support our domestic manufacturing industry.

In order to support this goal, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will not consider any requests for a public interest waiver of FTA’s Buy America regulation for Recovery Act projects.  If issued, such waivers would allow recipients of Recovery Act funds to procure steel, iron, or manufactured products, including rolling stock, that are not produced or manufactured in the United States.  I will not waive Buy America for Recovery Act projects because such action would undermine the very purpose and intent of the Recovery Act—to preserve and create jobs in America.  In addition, FTA will continue to carefully scrutinize requests for waivers based on non-availability to determine whether suitable American-made alternatives exist, and if none do, whether the funds can be used in an alternative manner that fulfills the goals of the Recovery Act.  Similarly, FTA will examine requests for cost-differential waivers to determine whether the cost savings justifies the loss of American jobs, especially in critical manufacturing sectors.  By necessity, FTA will extend existing, standing waivers—for products exempted by the Federal Acquisition Regulation, microprocessors and microcomputers, and small purchases—to Recovery Act-funded procurements, although

I encourage recipients to use their best efforts to carry out the intent of Congress and the Obama Administration by carefully stewarding their Recovery Act funds in a manner that supports a healthy and robust domestic manufacturing base.

In addition to the above guidance, please note that this heightened standard is not exclusive to the Recovery Act.  FTA has raised the bar for all Buy America waiver requests.  All requests will be scrutinized.  Most requests will result in FTA offering technical assistance to develop a solution that will not necessitate a waiver.  Please be cautious about leading your projects down a path where a Buy America waiver will be needed, as it is unlikely to be granted.    

Thanks to your diligent reporting, I am proud to inform you that FTA’s Recovery Act formula programs have created or retained over 12,500 jobs between July 1 and September 30, 2010, with the transit capital assistance program reporting the 11th highest number of jobs among more than

200 Recovery Act programs.  This impressive start shows that public transportation agencies can follow through on fulfilling the employment goals of the Recovery Act and showing that public transportation can be an effective job generator within the American economy.  It is this demonstration that will serve us well in the coming surface transportation authorization and in other important transportation funding debates.

On behalf of President Obama and Secretary LaHood, thank you for the work that you have done, and will do, in meeting the Recovery Act’s goal of putting your fellow Americans back to work.

Finally, I’m pleased to announce the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new Buy America website at http://www.dot.gov/buyamerica.  The Buy America website improves access to business opportunities by posting links to all waiver requests in one central location.  This will help American companies easily determine whether they can fill a particular Buy America need.  Also, you can subscribe to alerts when new Buy America information is posted.

Sincerely yours,


Peter Rogoff