WASHINGTON (July 18, 2003)—Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc. are exchanging words over a provision in a military spending bill that would extend current “Buy American” laws applied to military procurement to include tires.
An amendment was added May 21 on the floor of the House of Representatives to the Department of Defense authorization bill, and the package passed the House later that day.
The amendment enlarges the current list of products the Pentagon may buy only from U.S. suppliers, including tires for military aircraft and ground vehicles. It also specifies that 65 percent of the components in items purchased by the military must be U.S.-made—up from the current 50 percent.
No such provision is in the Senate version of the Defense Department bill, which passed shortly after the House version. House-Senate conferees are expected to meet shortly to reconcile the differences between their defense spending packages.
The Bush administration is sharply critical of the “Buy American” provision, calling it “burdensome, counterproductive and hav(ing) the potential to degrade U.S. military capabilities” in a May 22 press release from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
If passed, the amendment would not only hamper the U.S. military's access to non-U.S., state-of-the-art technologies and industrial capabilities, but also undermine cooperation between the U.S. armed forces and their allies, the OMB said. “Adequate means are already available in law and regulations to protect the U.S. industrial base,” it added.
In the “Buy American” debate, Goodyear has weighed in for it, Michelin against it. “At some point, our government has to support a strategic base of production for all of the units our military will need,” a Goodyear spokesman said. “We don't have a problem with a German, French or Japanese company supplying the military. We're just saying that any products sold to the U.S. military should be made in the U.S.
“If Germany ruled that any tires its army bought should be made in Germany, we wouldn't have any problem with that, either,” he said.
But such an argument is “a red herring” that “ignores the reality of world supply,” according to a Michelin spokesman. In Iraq, he noted, Michelin supplied the Pentagon's urgent call for tires in the war zone by airlifting them from the tire maker's factories in Germany.