A bill meant to promote domestic firms being considered by the New Jersey legislature could cause more harm than good for U.S. businesses. Senate Bill 1811, a so-called “Buy American” bill, would require state agencies, local jurisdictions, boards of education, and institutions of higher learning to only fulfill contracts with products manufactured in the United States. However, requiring the state government entities to only procure U.S.-made products could unintentionally isolate New Jersey from U.S.-based businesses that are also competing in the global marketplace, resulting in increased costs for taxpayers in the state.
For that reason the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS) is calling upon key state legislators in New Jersey, as well as Governor Chris Christie, to ensure that information and communication technology (ICT) products are exempted from this potentially harmful legislation that is being considered by the state Legislature. The bill is moving quickly and both the state Assembly and Senate are expected to vote on the measure this week.
While we share the goals of promoting economic and job growth in the U.S., we are concerned about the unintended consequences. The ICT industry is a global market sector with international supply lines, sources of production, and consumers. Any effort to limit sources of contract fulfillment to domestically produced items will unnecessarily limit access to the most innovative technologies. Furthermore, compliance will be impractical and prohibitively costly for New Jersey and its taxpayers to implement.
While American ideas and know-how spark much of the innovative products, the vast majority of ICT products are manufactured abroad; including almost all handheld devices and the infrastructure that enables them, all flat panel screens and displays, and most computer servers, laptops, desktops, and their components. These products, critical to providing services to the citizens of New Jersey, would become unavailable to state and local jurisdictions or require additional red tape to acquire.
While well-intended, New Jersey Senate Bill 1811 would in reality further complicate and delay an already protracted procurement process for the state of New Jersey, its political subdivisions, and universities. New Jersey taxpayers and citizens deserve access to the latest global innovations to deliver the most responsive and robust constituent services technology can enable. With passage of this limiting legislation, that would become far more difficult and significantly more costly to achieve.
About ITAPS. ITAPS, a division of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), is an alliance of leading technology companies building and integrating the latest innovative technologies for the public sector market. With a focus on the federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as on educational institutions, ITAPS advocates for improved procurement policies and practices, while identifying business development opportunities and sharing market intelligence with our industry participants. Visit itaps.itic.org to learn more. Follow us on Twitter @ITAlliancePS.