Federal contracting officers and grant managers are at the forefront of the Biden administration’s Made in America initiative.
Celeste Drake, director of the Made in America Office at OMB, said the initiative’s short- and long-term goals are as much to increase the goods and services purchased from American companies as they are to share data on how whose agencies make their purchases. the decisions.
“The executive order makes agencies accountable for their implementation and compliance with Made in America laws, and establishes the Made in America office to lead those efforts. We believe these steps are already having an impact in bringing this focused, high-level attention to waivers, ”Drake said in his first interview since taking on the role in April. “We are bringing this whole-of-government approach to strengthen the implementation of Made in America and ask agencies to continually review their processes and prepare the ground for real, concrete improvements.”
To get concrete improvements, the OMB memo begins by asking agencies to appoint a senior manager to oversee the Made in America effort. Drake said beyond being the so-called “push button,” the official will focus his agency’s efforts on increasing domestic sourcing to a high level in each agency.
“It’s important for the Made in America office, as part of the OMB, to have this key point of contact, and that point of contact can then do what it needs to do internally to implement the policy. or get the information, ”she said. “It really does say that this administration is trying to take concrete action to ensure that the federal government maximizes its use of goods, services and materials made in America. It’s not just a throwaway line or talking point. The message to the agencies is that we are going to do it, and that is why you have to have a senior official responsible because there has to be someone who is responsible for saying, “Yes, we are doing what we need to do to do in America. ‘”
Agencies were to appoint these senior officials by June 30. Drake said each agency has taken a different approach, with some naming their senior purchasing manager, others their grants manager or CFO.
Review of the current waiver process
However, the major improvement in the EO and the implementation guidelines relates to the waiver process.
Drake said this is where the federal procurement and granting workforce as well as the industry will see the real change.
The implementation guide offers new information to include in non-availability waivers, including the estimated value of the supply, market research conducted and who approved the waiver.
Drake said that despite several laws in place like the Buy American Act or the Berry Amendment or the Jones Act, information on why agencies need waivers are hard to find and understand.
“The Biden-Harris administration is leading the Made in America by instituting this very first government-wide waiver review process,” she said. “We bring this whole-of-government approach to strengthen the implementation of Made in America and ask agencies to continually review their processes and prepare the ground for real, concrete improvements. The most pressing concern of the public is that they have no information on the waiver process. The centralized process and transparency aim to solve this problem. It is not clear to the public how much contracting officers work to comply with the Buy American Act, and how hard they work to identify suppliers. Therefore, by ensuring that waivers are transparent and accessible to the public, we will ensure that domestic businesses have an opportunity to find and fill gaps in the US supply chain. By analyzing the data we collect, we can help improve policies for domestic businesses and workers as we work to better rebuild the economy. “
The General Services Administration will also build a public website where waivers will be easy to find for companies looking to work for agencies.
The new GSA website would ensure that businesses and others wouldn’t have to go through the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), which is known to be difficult to operate.
Drake said the new website will be a “one-stop-shop” for all waivers of federal aid contracts and funding and the Jones Act, which is a 1920s law that protects injured offshore and marine workers.
“We will try to present it in an up-to-date and easy-to-use way, so that we think about how we improve Made in America policies,” she said. “Also, companies that want to do business with the US government can find a one-stop-shop and say, ‘Hey wait a minute, a waiver has been issued for green widgets, we can make green widgets,’ and they don’t. will not. have to go to a multitude of websites to get the information they are looking for.
Recommendations for handling technological products
Drake said his office will work closely with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the Small Business Administration and other agencies to design and implement the new waiver process.
The Biden administration has not yet appointed an OFPP administrator. This person will play a key role in this initiative.
Domain agencies generally need an IT exemption.
Drake said the OE requires the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council to report on existing constraints that could prevent the extension of Made in America requirements to commercial computing. The councils will also develop recommendations to address these challenges.
“The decree identifies the need to make strategic investments to strengthen the capacity of the national supply chain, for example, in silicon chips. As we continue to implement the decree, we consider how we can work together with critical supply chain goals and how we can support national IT while ensuring that all agencies have the best access. to the most innovative products, regardless of their source around the world, ”she said. “The job of the Made in America office is to support the results of these critical supply chain reviews and recommendations as best we can to maximize the production of goods and the delivery of services nationally. This certainly does not mean that we will only buy products that are made in America. And that certainly doesn’t mean we won’t work with our allies and trading partners, because one of the elements of building resilient supply chains is making sure you don’t just have a single source for them. critical components.