A 2009 measure intended to boost the American textile industry is limited in its influence, the Government Accountability Office found.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. textile production fell from $71 billion in 2006 to $46 billion in 2009. In response to this industrial downturn, Congress passed the Kissell Amendment as part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This measure ensured a restriction on Department of Homeland Security procurement of foreign textiles, specifically for military uniforms and body armor, hoping to add some strength to American textile companies.
In order to ascertain the effects of the Kissell Amendment, the GAO undertook a review of DHS’s policies and procedures as they related to textile contract files and procurement obligations data. GAO found that all 11 DHS uniform and body armor textile contracts created since August 2009 made references and outlined specific procedures regarding the Kissell Amendment. For example, DHS incorporated an acquisition review process, training for contract personnel on Kissell restrictions and verification procedures for contracts adhering to Kissell.
However, it was ultimately found that the Kissell Amendment had a limited effect on DHS textile procurement. In particular, the measure limited textile purchases only from foreign sources related to national security interests above the $150,000 acquisition World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement threshold. As a result, the policy only restricted DHS foreign textile contracts that fell between $150,000 and $191,000.
Nonetheless, the Kissell Amendment fully prevented the Transportation Security Administration’s purchasing of textiles above $150,000 from all but three foreign nations. This is because the TSA is excluded from most international deals involving DHS.
Finally, under a September 2014 uniform contract related to the Kissell Amendment, DHS ordered 58 percent of the $164.6 million worth of uniform items from foreign sources. Only 42 percent of the items were domestic made.
Yet the DHS stated that the price and time to procure necessary textiles could increase if the agency was required to only source materials domestically. The agency showcased how prices and availability for certain materials could often be better found in foreign, rather than domestic sources.
In June and July 2017, DHS officials conducted two webinars with 570 acquisition professionals on how the Kissell Amendment would be affected by President Trump’s April 2017 Buy American and Hire American executive order. GAO indicated that while its review took place before said training, it did observe a July 2017 session and stated that its content was in line with Kissell requirements.
The report will be sent the secretary of homeland security, the appropriate Congressional committees, the U.S. trade representative and other parties for review and potential feedback as to how the DHS should proceed.