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 Buy America Mandate
NHTSA Loosens Grant Spending Restrictions
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  In June, NHTSA issued a public interest waiver of Buy America requirements for any manufactured product (other than an automobile) priced at $5,000 or less.  Buy America is a statutory requirement administered by the Department of Transportation (which oversees NHTSA) that “establishes a preference for domestically produced goods for use in Federally sponsored projects.”  The waiver allows CPS programs to use federal grant funds administered under Chapter 4 of Title 23 of the United States Code (in particular, Section 402 and 405 funds) to purchase equipment, regardless of country of origin.  The waiver went into effect on July 30, 2015.  No expiration date was stated.

  Readers have likely noted that a number of Buy America waiver requests for the purchase of CPS equipment were submitted to NHTSA in recent months (see SRN Sept/Oct 2014 and March/April 2015).    These waiver requests (some granted, some denied) each sought to make exceptions to allow specified items to be purchased using state highway funds, despite the fact that they were not made in the U.S.

  Each time a waiver was requested, the requesting agency was required to undertake a time-consuming and resource-taxing application process in order to present the necessary evidence to justify the purchase of foreign goods.  In addition, NHTSA was required to exercise due diligence for each waiver request, performing an independent review and market analysis to confirm that the item met one of the established
exemption criteria (either a lack of availability domestically or a high cost differential).

  In establishing this waiver, NHTSA sought to eliminate these administrative burdens, as well as to alleviate a situation that “has the effect of restricting or delaying the States’ ability to acquire ancillary support systems....”   It explained that the $5,000 cap was in step with other government-wide requirements and would “balance the goals of Buy America with the life-saving goals of the State highway safety grant programs.”  NHTSA noted, however, that its regional administrators will, of course, continue to monitor all grant programs. 

Reference:  Go to www.regulations.gov and search for Docket No. NHTSA-2015-0065.
©Safe Ride News June/July 2015
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