If it’s for our military, build it here

Until 2014, the American flags flown at many of our military bases were not 100 percent American-made. When the American public became aware, subsequent outcry produced a change in policy. We should have the same reaction to the equipment that defends our nation and keeps our men and women in uniform safe. Instead, some in Congress are trying to abolish domestic sourcing requirements, known as Buy American measures, for defense acquisitions. 

Elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, must be proactive to save our defense manufacturing industrial base. Implementing a fair and equitable procurement policy for the Defense Department is a good place to start. We have pledged to work with this Administration and Congress to create manufacturing and trade policies that benefit workers, including scrapping policies that reward companies for sending jobs overseas.

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The defense sector accounts for more than 3 percent of gross domestic product and provides high-wage and high-skill jobs, many of which are unionized, that generate more than $155 billion in wages and benefits. Disappointingly, the Defense Department has spent more than $200 billion of American taxpayers’ money in the last decade to purchase foreign-made goods. Our armed forces, especially in today’s climate, should not be dependent upon foreign countries for defense items like chemical weapons antidotes or components for naval vessels.

Besides, we have thousands of veterans here at home who are ready to produce the products that keep our military safe. After serving in the U.S. Navy, I worked as an aircraft assembler at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. I was proud to work on America’s top defense aircraft, the F-16. Now, as international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, I am honored to represent tens of thousands of working people in the aerospace and defense products and services industries.

My union helps design, build, service and transport the products and equipment that form the backbone of the United States economy and security. They know how important U.S. manufacturing is to our communities and our nation. Unfortunately, IAM members in the defense and aerospace industry have frequently been the victims of corporations sending jobs outside of America.

Outsourcing jobs in the aerospace industry is particularly damaging to our nation's economy. They’re the highly skilled jobs that America needs to ensure the sustainability of our manufacturing base in the future. The jobs are critical to secure the sustainability of our defense industry. As the industry off-loads production to other countries, our nation will be vulnerable in the event our allies become our enemies and supply chains are disrupted.

The Machinists Union continues to lead the fight for creating and saving American jobs that improve the standard of living for all Americans as well as workers from around the world. We actively promote government procurement policies that support the use of tax dollars on aerospace and defense products made in America. Additionally, we advocate for fair trade policy that put workers first by strengthening labor standards and pushing for policies that will no longer reward multinational corporations to flee our shores in the never-ending search for cheap labor that does not enjoy fundamental human rights.  

Americans of all political stripes support Buy American policies that effectively invest hard-earned tax dollars here in the U.S. and employ American workers. This Veterans Day, let’s honor all of our hardworking military men and women by ensuring that our Aerospace and defense products are 100 percent American made, just like the American flag. It’s the best way to put Americans, especially veterans, back to work again.

Robert Martinez Jr., is International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A U.S. Navy veteran, Martinez began his Machinists Union career in 1980 as a member of IAM Local 776A in Fort Worth, Texas and aircraft assembler at Lockheed Martin.