On June 8, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021. The bill passed by a 68-32 margin. The vote was along party lines with no Democrats opposing the bill’s passage. As reported in the May 27, 2021 WWEMA Member Bulletin, key components of the initial bill include:
- Establishing a Directorate for Technology and Innovation in the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goals of the Directorate are strengthening U.S. leadership in critical technologies through basic research in key technology focus areas such as artificial intelligence, high performance computing, and advanced manufacturing, and the commercialization of those technologies to businesses in the United States
- Extending the authority to the NSF to provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information within the United States concerning its activities
- Requiring the Department of Commerce to: (1) establish a Supply Chain Resiliency and Crisis Response Program to address supply chain gaps and vulnerabilities in critical industries, (2) designate regional technology hubs to facilitate activities that support regional economic development that diffuses innovation around the United States, and (3) award grants to facilitate development and implementation of comprehensive regional technology strategies.
- Expanding the Manufacturing USA Program that supports innovation and growth in domestic manufacturing and extending the program through 2026.
An important aspect is the bill’s domestic content procurement preference or Buy America requirements. These provisions remain in the version of the bill passed by the U.S. Senate. As noted in Section 4111, subsection (12), “as of the date of enactment of this Act, domestic content procurement preference policies apply to all Federal Government procurement and to various Federal-aid infrastructure programs”. The bill has a nearly 60-page separate Title—Ensuring Domestic Manufacturing Capabilities. It mandates domestic preference for common construction materials used in public works infrastructure projects including steel, iron, manufactured products, non-ferrous metals, plastic and polymer-based products (including polyvinylchloride, composite building materials, and polymers used in fiber optic cables), concrete and other aggregates, glass (including optic glass), lumber, and drywall.
In the case of manufactured products, the products have to be manufactured in the United States and the cost of the components of the manufactured product that are mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States must be greater than 55 percent of the total cost of all components of the manufactured product, unless another standard for determining the minimum amount of domestic content of the manufactured product has been established under applicable law or regulation. In the case of construction materials, all manufacturing processes for the construction material must have occurred in the United States. Section 4123 of the legislation codifies President Biden’s Made in America Office in the Office of Management and Budget and requires the head of this office to be appointed by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The duties of the Made in America Director are also enumerated in the bill.
Regarding passage of the bill, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is quoted as saying, “Today’s Senate vote is a major step towards building the R&D capacity we need to seize the promise of an Information Age. This bipartisan vote is a huge boost to our innovation ecosystem that will help us keep pace with our competitors.” A copy of the engrossed bill is available HERE.