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Buy American -- Then and Now


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Last night Vern and I reminisced about federal contracting regulations.  We finally mentioned the Buy American Act and I remembered a 50% add on to a competitive price and another one of 12 percent.  That's it.  I once knew how to use it.

I thought to myself that it would be interesting to see how Congress and the Presidents perfected the Buy American Act over the course of about 50 years.  I made a couple of searches and voila I found two items.  One by GAO in 1978 and one by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in 2022.

Here are GAO's:  The Buy American Act from April 1978 and

CRS's The Buy American Act and Other Federal Procurement Domestic Content Restrictions from November 2022.

I had thought it might be a good subject to write about and then I thought about the subject of competition which is even bigger.  For example, the first procurement law was passed in 1792 (1 Stat. 234) that required the Postmaster General to advertise notice of a procurement in newspapers at least 6 weeks before signing a contract.  Future Congresses perfected that law in 1809, 1829, 1842 and 1860.  By 1842, the Congresses had laid out the features of advertising (1) public notice of the need, (2) sealed offers, (3) public opening of bids and (4) award to the low bidder.  Over the years, with the help or hindrance of others, those features became Formal Advertising which few of you may remember.  In 1984, Congress passed the Competition in Contracting Act which renamed Formal Advertising as Sealed Bidding.


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