Congress enacted the Buy American Act (“BAA”) during the Great Depression, in order to protect American industry from foreign competition on federal procurement contracts. While the BAA is simplistic in its policy goal of promoting domestic purchasing, government contractors and subcontractors are often faced with complex and confusing rules for compliance.
The operative language of the BAA provides:
Only unmanufactured articles, materials, and supplies that have been mined or produced in the United States, and only manufactured articles, materials, and supplies that have been manufactured in the United States substantially all from articles, materials, or supplies mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States, shall be acquired for public use unless the head of the department or independent establishment concerned determines their acquisition to be inconsistent with the public interest or their cost to be unreasonable.
The Government flows down BAA requirements to government contractors in the form of standardized clauses contained in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”).
The key to understanding the BAA is determining whether the solicited goods or “end products” are domestic, i.e. were mined, produced, or substantially manufactured in the United States.
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