Air Force Certifies the Weakness of Domestic Manufacturing

I was just revising a portion of my textbook, Economics:The Basics and I happened to come across this March21, 2011 entry in the Federal Register where the Air Force is granting a waiver from the  Buy American requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This is what the waiver said:

The domestic nonavailability determination for these products is based on extensive market research and thorough investigation of the domestic manufacturing landscape. This research identified that these products are manufactured almost exclusively in China.

Which products are they talking about?

… the following construction items to be incorporated into the project FTQW094001 for the construction and replacement of military family housing units at Eielson AFB, Alaska under task order FA8903-06-D-8505-0019. The items are 1″ Collated Screws, Shank #10; 1-1/2″ (Taco) Air Scoops for Hydronic Heating Systems; 1-5/8″ Ceramic Coated Bugle Head Course Thread Screws; 2″ (Taco) Air Scoops for Hydronic Heating Systems; 2-1/2″ (Taco) Air Scoops for Hydronic Heating Systems; 2-1/2″ Collated Screws; 3″ Ceramic Coated Bugle Head Course Thread Screws; 3″ Spool Insulators;3/4″ Collated Screws, Shank #10; 3″;Bolt Guy Clamp; Ceiling Fan; Ceiling Fan w/Light Kit; Door Hinge Pin Stops; Exterior Wall Mount Two Head Flood Light w/270 Degree Motion Sensor & Brushed Nickel Finish; Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) Receptacles; Handrail Brackets; Maclean Power Systems Guy Attachment; Residential Style Satin Chrome Handrail Bracket; Satin Nickel Outdoor Sconce Light Fixture; Tamper-Resistant Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) Receptacles; Weather-Resistant Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) Receptacles; Pendant Bar Light Fixture; 24″ Bath Vanity Light Fixture; Pendant Chandelier Light Fixture; Linear Fluorescent Ceiling Lighting Fixture (48″ Lensed Fluorescent w/Dimming Ballast & Satin Aluminum Finish); 48″ Bath Vanity Light Fixture; 20″ Utility Shelf Bracket; Chrome Finish Residential Dishwasher Air Gap Cap Fitting; Satin Chrome Finish Convex Wall Mount Door Stops; Residential Microwave w/Range Hood; Residential Style Polished Chrome Towel Ring; Residential Style Polished Chrome Toilet Paper Holder; Residential Style Polished Chrome Double Robe Hook; Residential Style Bright Stainless Steel 60″ Curved Shower Rod & Flanges; Residential Style Polished Chrome 24″ Towel Bar; Residential Style Polished Chrome 30″ Towel Bar; Satin Nickel Finish Wall Mounted Spring Door Stop.

Hmmm…it’s pretty amazing, don’t you think, that the Air Force is certifying that none of these items are available from American manufacturers. It’s even more extraordinary given that the BEA reports that  the U.S. fabricated metal and electrical equipment industries were producing at very high levels as recently as 2007. Similarly, the BLS is reporting record levels of output in the ‘turned product, screw, nut and bolt’  industry as of 2007.

I see four possibilities.

First, the Air Force could be lazy. The parts are really available, but they can’t find them.

Second,   U.S. manufacturers only make sophisticated parts, not towel bars and door stops.

Third,  these industries were doing great through 2007,   and have only gone offshore since the recession.

Fourth,  the official data didn’t pick up the offshoring in the 2000s.

Take your pick.

Comments

  1. I don’t think the Chinese-only parts are the only components that can only be had from a foreign source. Some of the sophisticated electronics are made in Taiwan, if I recall correctly.

    Of course, this is only a huge issue if we somehow ended up in a massive, drawn-out conventional conflict with one of these countries. The time involved in setting up specialized production lines for military equipment (particularly vehicles) is long enough that you go to war with the stock of military equipment/parts that you have for the first couple of years anyways (the days of World War 2, when we could rapidly churn out a ton of equipment in the space of a year or two, are over).

  2. This tells me that we better not ever get in a war with an economically powerful country. :)

  3. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

    This data (if accurate) suggests we have shipped jobs overseas during the recession that will never come back . . . unless we are willing to sacrifice our present standard of living and try to win a race to the bottom in wages. [Not advisable] This data also highlights that we are truly in a global market were developed nations better have a good plan to ensure their workers marginal productivity is worth the activity they are in, or else that function will go where the best return can be found. Given our nation’s struggle with secondary education I am concerned we will be left with options. [Yikes.]

  4. Michael Robbins says:

    How can someone get in touch with the air force to become a supplier for the products they need?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry lobby, on Tuesday played up the recent discovery by Michael Mandel, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute, that the [...]

  2. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  3. [...] for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  4. [...] for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  5. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  6. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  7. [...] for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  8. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  9. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, wasrecently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. AirForce waived the “Buy [...]

  10. [...] Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry lobby, on Tuesday played up the recent discovery by Michael Mandel, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute, that the [...]

  11. [...] for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook heâ??s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the â??Buy [...]

  12. [...] economist for BusinessWeek, was recently doing some research for a textbook he’s revising when he stumbled upon a surprising entry in the Federal Registry. On March 21, the U.S. Air Force waived the “Buy [...]

  13. [...] NASA awards $270 million to space-age companies. Mike Mandel reports that the Air Force is in great need of a bunch of domestic products. It looks like Japan’s construction industry is about to boom. A [...]

  14. [...] NASA awards $270 million to space-age companies. Mike Mandel reports that the Air Force is in great need of a bunch of domestic products. It looks like Japan’s construction industry is about to boom. A [...]

  15. [...] NASA awards $270 million to space-age companies. Mike Mandel reports that the Air Force is in great need of a bunch of domestic products. It looks like Japan’s construction industry is about to boom. A [...]

  16. [...] Crossposted from Mandel on Innovation and Growth Tagged Economy, Military [...]

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