Exemption From Buy America Requirements (May 1985)


Printer Friendly Number 50 FR 18760
05-02-85

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Urban Mass Transportation Administration
AGENCY: Urban Mass Transportation Administration, DOT.
[Docket No. 84-G]
50 FR 18760
May 2, 1985

Exemption From Buy America Requirements

ACTION: Notice of exemption from Buy America requirements.

SUMMARY: Section 165 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-424) provides that Federal funds may not be obligated by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) for mass transportation projects unless steel and manufactured products used in the project are produced in the United States. Section 165 further provides that any of its provisions may be waived if their application would be inconsistent with the public interest. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) petitioned UMTA to grant public interest waiver for the procurement of microcomputers. The basis of the petition is that presently domestically produced microcomputers fail to meet Buy America requirements because the chips and some major components of the equipments are not made in the United States. UMTA has reviewed and analyzed the comments and recommendations of interested and affected parties, and has decided that a Buy America waiver for microcomputers will be granted for a one-year period.

DATE: This waiver is effected on the date of publication.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward J. Gill, Jr., Office of the Chief Counsel, Room 9228, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590, (202) 426-4063.

TEXT: SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice of this petition was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, January 9, 1985, and an opportunity afforded to all interested parties to provide comments (50 FR 1156.) Twenty-two responses were received on the petition.

Based upon its review and analysis of the comments, UMTA will grant the requested waiver for a one-year period. Under UMTA programs, recipients of Federal funds are given discretion in determining what kind of equipment they will procure with Federal assistance. AASHTO's waiver request indicated that several grantees were experiencing difficulty in purchasing domestically produced microcomputer equipment appropriate to their needs. Section 165(b)(2) of the STAA provides that a waiver may be granted if materials and products being procured are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality. Under UMTA regulations, the item being procured is presumed to be unavailable if no responsive bid is received which will provide a domestically produced product.

After considering the comments received, UMTA has determined that the waiver will streamline the purchasing process for all grantees who will need or expect to need microcomputers during this exemption period. However, given the rapid technological changes in an expanding market for domestically produced computers, UMTA will limit the exemption for a one-year period. At the end of this period, UMTA will review the availability of domestically produced microcomputers and evaluate the need for allowing the exemption to continue.

UMTA's analysis is based upon the responses to four specific questions posed in the original notice. UMTA solicited comments on the definition of "microcomputer." Some comments expressed concern that any definition would be too restrictive given the market's rapid technological changes and the varied uses of the equipment in the transit industry.

Of the responses that suggested definitions, those suggestions addressed the need for a definition broad enough to encompass a microcomputer system. UMTA has decided to adopt the definition of microcomputer as published in the American National Dictionary for Information Processing Systems. According to that definition, a microcomputer is:

A computer system whose processing unit is a microprocessor. A basic microcomputer includes a microprocessor, storage, and input/output facility, which may or may not be on one chip.

The same source defines computer system as:

A functional unit consisting of one or more computers and associated software, that uses common storage for all or part of a program and also for all or part of the date necessary for the execution of the program; executes user-written or user-designated programs; performs user-designated data manipulation, including arithmetic operations and logic operations; and that can execute programs that modify themselves during their executions. A computer system may be a stand-alone unit or may consist of several interconnected units. Synonymous with ADP system, computing system.

UMTA solicited comments on whether the waiver should apply to both hardware and software. Several of the responses indicated that a waiver applicable to microcomputer hardware should also be applicable to microcomputer software to ensure compatibility and cost-effectiveness. UMTA has decided to include software in the waiver's applicability based upon the definition of microcomputer that it has adopted and upon the recommendations received.

Since AASHTO's request highlighted specifically the problems of small to medium-size transit industries in procuring microcomputers, UMTA requested comments on whether the waiver's application should be limited to grantees of a certain size. The responses were unanimous in indicating that the waiver should apply to all grantees given the expanding use of microcomputers in the transit industry. UMTA has decided, therefore, to apply the waiver to all grantees.

Finally, UMTA solicited comments on whether there should be a dollar limitation on the procurement. Again, a majority of the responses indicated that such a limitation would be too restrictive given the varied types of systems available, and their costs as well as the varying needs of the user. UMTA has decided not to impose a dollar limitation on the applicability of the waive.

Therefore, under the provisions of section 165(b)(1) and (b)(2) of the STAA of 1982, a Buy America exemption is granted to all UMTA grantees for the procurement of microcomputers, as defined in this Notice. Accordingly, requests for individual waivers for purchase of microcomputer hardware and software are not necessary. This general exemption will be in effect until April 30, 1986.

Dated: April 26, 1985.

Ralph L. Stanley,

Administrator.

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