Last year in January 2011, the President signed the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (Pub. L. No. 111-383, Section 846), which included a “Buy American” requirement for photovoltaic devices being purchased by the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”). We previously discussed this new requirement in our blog. Twelve months later, the DoD has issued an interim rule to implement this new requirement. See 76 Fed. Reg. 18858 (Dec. 20, 2011). The interim rule appears to be straightforward, implementing exceptions and manufacturing requirements with which most companies are already familiar under the Buy American Act or the Trade Agreements Act, but there is some fine print of which all companies selling photovoltaic devices to the DoD should be aware.
2012 will see changes regarding U.S. free trade agreements relating to, first, the dollar thresholds at which the various agreements apply to federal purchases and, second, the likely expansion of the scope of the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement ("WTO GPA"). The updated dollar thresholds are important for government contractors because the thresholds determine when a contract is subject to the Buy American Act ("BAA") or the Trade Agreements Act ("TAA"). As to the WTO GPA, its expansion should provide significant increased access to the U.S and many of its trading partners in international procurements, although the hoped for accession of China to the WTO GPA remains stalled
While Vice President Biden was busy touting Summer 2010 as the “Summer of Recovery” and the economic effects of the February 2009 Stimulus Act (a.k.a. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Recovery Act, ARRA, the Stimulus Act, etc.), the gears of the regulatory process ground steadily onward. Throughout the summer, the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issued updated policy guidance implementing the ARRA requirements, and the rule-makers in the FAR Councils remained hard at work updating and (hopefully) finalizing the regulations implementing the finer details of the Recovery Act. Despite the fact that the ARRA funding officially expired on September 30, 2010 (meaning that any unobligated ARRA funds will now revert to the federal treasury to be saved or spent another day), the Government spent its summer fine-tuning the regulations. As the sun begins to set on the Recovery Act, and as the Summer of Recovery fades into the past, we summarize here some of the key features of the final Recovery Act rules promulgated over the last few months.
Nearly one year ago on February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Pub. L. No. 111-5), more commonly known as the Stimulus Act, the Recovery Act, or ARRA. One of the key features of the Act included a "Buy American" requirement, requiring domestically manufactured "iron, steel, or manufactured goods" to be used in Recovery Act funded projects (located at Section 1605 of the Act). This requirement has proven to be a collossal headache for vendors supporting Recovery Act projects and has also proven to be immensely complicated for the good men and women in Government (including those at the State and local levels), who are faced with the task of figuring out how, where, and when the Recovery Act Buy American requirement applies.
Effective January 1, 2010, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Ronald Kirk, published new dollar thresholds determining the applicability of the Buy American Act (BAA), the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), and (potentially) other "Buy American" preferences to the United States’ various international free trade agreements. See 74 Federal Register 68907 (December 29, 2009). The changes to the dollar thresholds are effective through the end of 2011, so it is doubtful that we will see any additional escalation until 2012.
In early July, we discussed that fact that Taiwan would soon be an approved country of origin for purposes of the Trade Agreements Act. This was, in our view, good news and a welcome development.
The Administration has conceded that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) has not worked as planned. With unemployment numbers continuing to climb, the Administration now acknowledges it “misread the economy.” But from the beginning not everyone believed ARRA would achieve the desired stimulative effect. After all, $787 billion cannot be disbursed without some complication.
On June 16, 2009, Taiwan (aka Chinese Taipei) took the penultimate step in acceding to the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA), which will eventually grant Taiwan "free trade partner" status under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and allow companies selling to the U.S. Government to deliver products that are manufactured in Taiwan. The accession process is expected to be complete by July 15, 2009. After that date, and once the FAR is updated accordingly, "Made in Taiwan" will finally be an approved country of origin for products and services delivered to the U.S. Government.
On March 31, 2009, the FAR Councils issued several new interim rules (effective March 31, 2009) implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) (also known as ARRA, The Recovery Act, or the Stimulus Act). See Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) 2005-32, published at 74 Federal Register 14621-14652. The FAC issued new interim rules on a number of areas required under the Stimulus Act, including:
- Reporting Requirements for Recipients of Recovery Funds (see 74 Federal Register 14639)
- Publicizing Contract Actions (see 74 Federal Register 14636)
- GAO and IG Access to Company Employees (see 74 Federal Register 14646)
- Whistleblower Protections (see 74 Federal Register 14633)
- Buy American Requirements for Construction Materials (see 74 Federal Register 14623)
This blog focuses on the final three sets of rules – those relating to Auditor access; Whistleblower protections; and Buy American requirements. The first set of rules is discussed separately here.