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Congress Approves Defense Authorization Bill

Stephanie Salmon

The legislation includes billions in construction spending and other provisions impacting metalcasters.

In December, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 (S. 1790), which President Donald Trump signed it into law. The Fiscal Year 2020 defense bill contains a total of $738 billion in defense spending and creates a new U.S. Space Force, as a separate branch of the armed services. Included in the many provisions are authorizations for additional F-35s, C-130Js, and F-15EXs, among other aircraft and nearly $11.8 billion for military and military family housing construction. In addition, the measure would authorize $23 billion to build 12 Navy ships, including three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class attack submarines, a new frigate and two amphibious ships. As critical suppliers to the U.S. military, there are several provisions of importance to U.S. metalcasters.

The measure contains a number of China-related provisions, including prohibiting transit agencies from using federal funds to purchase passenger rail cars and buses from Chinese state-owned or state-controlled enterprise. 

The ban excludes pre-existing contracts. Other provisions include one intended to reduce reliance on foreign sources of rare-earth minerals, and another that bars the U.S. military from purchasing China-made drones.

Other sections of the law of interest to the metalcasting industry include: Sec. 873: Requires federal agencies to pay small business contractors in an accelerated timeframe to 15 days, instead of thirty days; Sec. 1121-1124: Prohibit federal employers and contractors from asking about the criminal history of job applicants until they receive conditional offers of employment; and, Sec. 1648: Requires DOD to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity and will require all prime and subcontractors to adhere to those standards.

House Advances USMCA with Broad Support, Senate to Consider in Early 2020

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement for the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed more than a year ago, was approved in December by the House of Representatives on December 19 with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. 

The Trump administration had been negotiating with a group of House Democrats for months regarding the terms of the USMCA, including stronger labor, pharmaceutical, environmental and enforcement provisions. The delay in the House at times threatened to scuttle the deal, but the updated agreement garnered bipartisan support, as well as the support of the AFL-CIO. With House passage, this sets up a vote by the Senate in early 2020.

Key USMCA provisions of interest to U.S. metalcasters include strengthened automotive content rules, increased intellectual property protections, enhanced protections against currency manipulation, and strengthened labor and safety standards.  

Foundries Required to Submit 2019 OSHA 300A Recordkeeping Form by March 2
The deadline for electronically submitting the OSHA Form 300A 2018, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, for calendar year 2019 is March 2, 2020. Metalcasters with 20 or more employees are required to submit these forms annually.    

OSHA Inspections Rise in FY2019 for General Industry  
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its fiscal year (FY) 2019 final inspection statistics on December 3. Federal OSHA conducted 33,401 inspections—more inspections than the previous three years – addressing a variety of violations related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, crystalline silica, and other hazards. In FY18, federal OSHA administered 32,202 inspections. OSHA foundry inspections for past three years, including FY19, remain at the same level. There has not been a jump in inspections for iron, steel or aluminum foundries.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the January 2020 issue of Modern Casting.