Titanium companies lobby for Defense procurement measure

The three American producers of titanium used in military planes are urgently trying to shore up a federal law called the Berry Amendment. The law requires that the Pentagon purchase certain materials vital to national security only from American companies.

The Defense Department and some military contractors would like to loosen the law, arguing that it unnecessarily complicates the acquisition of goods. But the three titanium producers-RTI International Metals of Niles, Ohio; Titanium Metals of Denver, known at TIMET; and Allegheny Technologies of Pittsburgh-argue that the measure is crucial to preserving America's defense-industrial base. The companies are concerned about recent efforts by U.S. defense contractors to buy titanium from the Russian company VSMPO for use in American tanker planes and fighter jets.

The companies are promoting language already in the House version of the 2004 defense authorization bill. The bill would require public notice before a defense contractor is granted a waiver of the Berry Amendment to purchase foreign-sourced materials. It would also end the practice of banning the Pentagon from purchasing equipment made with foreign materials governed by the Berry Amendment, but would require contractors who do so to purchase material equivalent to 110 percent of the amount in the Pentagon contract from U.S. suppliers. This material could be used in other products they make. The authorization bill is currently in a House-Senate conference committee.

RTI and TIMET have retained the Fratelli Group, a public-relations firm, to work on the issue. In addition, RTI is using the law and lobbying firm Hogan & Hartson, including former House Minority Leader Robert Michel, R-Ill.; TIMET is using Brownstein Hyatt & Farber; and Allegheny is using Collier Shannon Scott.