Casey Introduces Legislation to Ensure U.S. Military Buys Steel Made in America – Rather than China – For Armor Plates

Legislation Would Protect Domestic Jobs and America’s National Security by Restoring Requirement that Military Steel be 100 Percent Made in America

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation to ensure that armor plate for America’s military is truly “made in America.” The bill would restore a 35-year rule, overturned by the Department of Defense in 2009, requiring that steel purchased by the U.S. military be 100 percent “made in America”—that is, both melted and finished in the United States.

“Any time the Defense Department buys steel it should be stamped with ‘Made in America,’” Senator Casey said. “Ensuring the Defense Department returns to its policy of only buying U.S. made steel will create jobs and act as a catalyst for growth of Pennsylvania’s steel producers.”

The bill was introduced by Senator Casey and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN).

Steel armor plate is used for military vehicles, tanks, and equipment. Under Defense Department regulations, specialty metals procured for defense purposes—including steel armor plate—must be produced in the United States.  Despite more than 35 years of legal interpretation and administrative practice requiring that specialty metals be melted in the United States, the Defense Department in 2009—in the midst of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and during a time when the demand for steel was high—published a final rule defining the word “produced,” as it applies to armor plate under the Special Metals Amendment, to include simple finishing processes. This means that armor plate melted in foreign countries, including Russia and China, could be imported and subjected to simple finishing processes in the United States and then deemed to have been "produced" domestically. 

Countries like China provide illegal subsidies to their domestic industries, along with undervaluing currency so their exports have an unfair price advantage. The senators were successful in passing the Currency Exchange Oversight Reform Act in 2011, legislation that represents the biggest bipartisan jobs bill—at no cost to American taxpayers—to clear the Senate last year. The bill would treat currency manipulation as an unfair export subsidy, giving the U.S. new resources to provide immediate relief for American manufacturers being undercut by cheap Chinese imports.

The United States Steel and Security Act, being introduced today, would require steel armor plate to be both melted and finished in the United States, not only protecting American steel jobs, but our country’s national security.

After numerous Congressional inquiries and report language questioning DoD’s interpretation of “produced,” the FY11 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision requiring a review and, if necessary, revision of the existing regulation to ensure the definition is consistent with Congressional intent (the review was required to be completed within 270 of enactment of the law, i.e., early October 2011).  On July 25, 2011, DoD published its request for comment, and the deadline for public comment was September 8, 2011.  As of early 2012, DOD has yet to finalize its review.