On Thursday, February 9, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the United States Steel and Security Act, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D Minn.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.). The legislation would reinstate the requirement that armor steel plate purchased by the U.S. military be 100 percent both melted and finished in the United States, reversing a 2009 decision by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) that allowed the military to purchase steel that had been melted in foreign countries. Armor steel plate is used by the military in vehicles, tanks, and other equipment.
The DOD’s 2009 decision was made in the midst of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the demand for steel was especially high. The final rule, published by DOD July 29, 2009, defined the word “produced” as it applied to armor steel plate under the Special Metals Amendment to include simple finishing processes. This change in definition allowed armor steel plate melted in foreign countries, including Russia and China, to be deemed “produced domestically” if it was subsequently subject to simple finishing processes in the United States. The decision reversed more than 35 years of legal interpretation and administrative practice.
After inquiries questioning the DOD on its steel purchasing standards, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011 included a provision requiring a review of the existing regulation to ensure the definition was consistent with congressional intent. The review was required to be completed within 270 days of enactment of the law, or early October 2011. On July 25, 2011, DOD published its request for comment, and the deadline for public comment was September 8, 2011. DOD has still yet to finalize its review.
On September 28, 2011, Sen. Brown and others sent a letter to Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter, urging him to revise the Department’s requirements on armor steel plate. During consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act in December 2011, Brown and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) called for the DOD to expedite its review of this issue. The Senators hope that the change will create jobs by providing a boost to the domestic steel industry.