June 2, 2021
Requested by the Senate Appropriations Committee
Gaps in Guidance, Training, and Oversight Impede FAA’s Ability To Comply With Buy American Laws
What We Looked At
To support its mission to provide the safest, most efficient airspace system in the world, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeks to procure state-of-the-art systems, high-quality goods, and first-rate services. In 2017, for example, the Agency made over $4 billion worth of purchases—of which a range of $87 million to an estimated $1.7 billion could be subject to the Buy American Act (BAA) and the FAA-specific Buy American Preference provisions (BAP). In response to a congressional request, we initiated this audit to assess FAA’s policies and procedures for awarding and administering contracts in accordance with domestic content laws. Specifically, we evaluated FAA’s policies and procedures for (1) implementing Buy American requirements and (2) overseeing Buy American compliance.
What We Found
FAA’s Acquisition Management System requires Buy American–applicable contracts to include specific clauses that direct vendors to certify the origins of goods or products and contracting officers (CO) to fully understand BAA and BAP requirements. However, we found Buy American–applicable contracts where COs had omitted or improperly applied the required clauses, lacked vendor certifications, or did not fulfill contract filing requirements—due to a lack of BAA- and BAP-specific guidance and training. As a result, we estimate that FAA may have put up to $127 million in Federal funds at risk due to contracts missing required vendor certifications. In addition, while Federal policy directed agencies to monitor, enforce, and comply with the Buy American Laws, FAA does not require its staff to assess and report on compliance, although it has tools available for this purpose. The Agency also lacks effective processes for recording “place of manufacture data” or for tracking usage of BAP waivers. As a result, FAA cannot be certain that it is meeting the intent of the Buy American Laws—to purchase American-made materials and goods to strengthen our economic and national security.
We made eight recommendations to improve FAA’s compliance and oversight for contracts subject to domestic content laws. FAA concurred with all eight recommendations, which we consider resolved but open pending completion of the planned actions.