The Department of Homeland Security has received loud criticism from border-security advocates for its snail’s pace at building the wall on the southern border authorized in 2006 by Congress. Now it faces another round of criticism for the building materials the DHS bought for its construction. Instead of American steel for the reinforced border fencing, DHS imported it from China:
House members allied with the domestic steel industry blasted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday for building a fence on the Mexican border with Chinese steel.
“By allowing the use of Chinese pipe [a type of steel], DHS is allowing the U.S. taxpayer to subsidize Chinese production at the expense of the American workers,” Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said at a press conference. “This is completely unacceptable.”
“This is outrageous, it’s offensive and it’s unacceptable,” charged Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).
English displayed photos of a portion of the border fence from San Luis, Ariz., that shows pipes marked “China” holding the border fence in place. He said DHS’s Office of Congressional Affairs had indicated it had waived the so-called Buy American rules in order to use the Chinese pipe and tube. The rules normally require the use of U.S. steel in such projects.
How dumb can DHS be? This is a high-profile project with politicians crawling all over it. Duncan Hunter has practically set up his presidential campaign there, and besides the border, which issue has he highlighted in his campaign? Unfair trade with China. Did they think that this would simply go unnoticed?
Hunter didn’t remain quiet after this came out. He noted that the DHS had $800 million in cash, and didn’t have to go bargain-hunting for steel. Fortunately, Hunter noted, the DHS has only build five miles of the barrier in a year, so they have plenty of time to get refunds and start buying American. At that rate, American steelworkers will have 160 years of work supplying DHS on this project!
Normally, I prefer a free-market approach and think the government should get the best deal, just like any other consumer. However, if we’re going to build a border barrier, having a “Made in China” label on it sends a curious message. National-security efforts should involve Americans to the greatest degree possible, and the DHS should have bought American in this case.