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DelBene Closes Shipbuilding Loophole in Defense Authorization Bill

Today, the U.S. Congress approved the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes a provision championed by Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) to close a loophole that enabled the Navy to purchase a critical ship component from foreign sources, circumventing the law and President Biden’s Buy America directive. DelBene’s fix will protect the sole remaining U.S. supplier of anchor chain, bring jobs back to Washington state, and ensure we can manufacture this critical defense component here in America.

The 2022 NDAA requires the Defense Department to purchase anchor chains of all sizes from countries within the U.S. national technology and industrial base, which includes the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In practice, this will ensure that the anchor chains used by the Navy will be made in America and not be outsourced to countries like China and South Korea.

The Navy has been exploiting a loophole to avoid purchasing American-made chain by accepting a design change for a new class of fleet oilers, enabling the military to skirt existing Buy America rules and instead procure chain from an overseas supplier. The total savings from this design change were marginal but had a significant negative impact on U.S. manufacturers, including the only remaining domestic producer of anchor chain, Lister Chain & Forge, a small business of 36 employees, located in Blaine, WA.

“If recent supply chain bottlenecks have taught us anything, it is we need a strong domestic manufacturing base, especially for military technologies and equipment,” said DelBene. “My fix in the 2022 NDAA will ensure that our Defense Department follows the letter and spirit of the law by bringing critical manufacturing and jobs back to Washington state.”

For more than two decades, Congress has included domestic content preferences for anchor chain in its annual defense authorization bill. Shortly after taking office, President Biden took executive action to bolster these efforts by calling on all federal agencies to buy goods, products, and materials from American companies whenever possible. Yet, this loophole remained and allowed the Defense Department to purchase foreign-made products to cut costs and undercut the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.

In April, DelBene sent a letter to House appropriators calling for this change in the annual defense bill. 

The bill now goes to President Biden for his expected signature. A summary of the 2022 NDAA can be found here