As Rapiscan Systems prepared to bid on a security-equipment contract last year, Vice President of Government Affairs, Peter Kant, thought he deserved an edge over his two competitors because only his company was based in the United States and set to manufacture the equipment domestically. Rapiscan, a manufacturer of baggageand cargo-screening systems in Hawthorne, Calif., was up against a British-based company and a US company that had paired with a Chinese firm and planned to manufacture its equipment in China. But Chemonics, the prime contractor managing the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) $40 million contract to screen cargo awarded the subcontract to the American-Chinese team. USAID had opted not to include a clause in the contract that would have required the supplier to assemble the equipment in the United States. That decision, and Kant’s ensuing
disappointment, illustrates the growing debate over “Buy American” regulations as agencies struggle to comply with the complicated, decades-old legislation in a world driven by global supply chains. As agencies and contractors grow increasingly frustrated with the high costs of compliance, industry groups are pushing to liberalize the regulations.