Kathleen Miller
January 23, 2012

For last year’s 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, U.S. Transportation Security Administration officials wanted their workers to remember the thousands who died. So the agency bought 70,000 commemorative bracelets — made in China.

The wristbands were among as much as $84 billion in U.S. contracts (USBOTOTA) awarded for foreign goods and services in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, mostly through exemptions from legislation designed to restrict such deals. Foreign purchases by federal agencies also included rocket launchers and machine guns from Bulgaria, as well as generic cholesterol medication for U.S. veterans that came from plants in India.

A Buy American Act from 1933 and similar measures since then have become so riddled with loopholes that some U.S. lawmakers are saying enough. Three senators proposed legislation last month to expand domestic preference rules and require agencies seeking made-in-America waivers to publish their plans on the Internet and allow time for public comment.

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