Presidential Action Triggered by Crisis in the U.S. Solar Industry

In recent months, the U.S. solar industry has been in the midst of an existential crisis, triggered by the threatened imposition of retroactive and future tariffs on a significant portion of U.S. imports. That crisis began on April 1, 2022, when the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) initiated an inquiry to determine whether solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are circumventing antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duty (“CVD”) orders on solar cells from China. Solar cells from these countries generally accounted for approximately 80% of U.S. solar module imports in 2020.[1] If Commerce finds circumvention, solar cells and modules from the four target countries could not only be subject to combined AD/CVD tariffs approaching 250%, but Commerce’s regulations also allow for the agency to apply these tariffs retroactively to merchandise entering on or after April 1, 2022 (and potentially as far back as November 4, 2021). This threat of AD/CVD tariffs triggered a steep decrease in imports of solar cells and modules from Southeast Asia, and caused parts of the U.S. solar industry to come to a stand-still, furthering domestic reliance on coal.[2] Given this paralysis in the solar industry, lawmakers and others urged the President to provide relief from potential AD/CVD tariffs.[3]

The President’s Response

On June 6, 2022, President Biden issued a declaration of emergency (the “Declaration”)[4] pursuant to section 318(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. § 1318), and issued a determination pursuant to section 303 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. § 4533) (“the DPA Determination”)[5]. The Declaration finds that an emergency exists “with respect to the threats to the availability of sufficient electricity generation capacity” and authorizes Commerce to issue a moratorium on tariffs on solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam for up to a 24-month period, while the DPA Determination aims to “expand the domestic production capability” for solar cells during this 24-month period. The Declaration itself does not prevent the imposition of tariffs on imported solar cells and modules from the Southeast Asian countries, rather it authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to “take appropriate action” to permit the duty-free importation of solar cells and modules for 24 months after the Declaration’s issue date.[6]

Continue Reading President Acts to Prevent Import Tariffs on Solar Cells and Modules from Southeast Asia

On the heels of the FTC’s opposition to Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed’s termination of the deal, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a report expressing concerns about the state of competition among its contractors.  Of particular note, the report encourages DoD action to (1) increase oversight of M&A transactions and (2)

On December 22, 2021, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the Fiscal Year 2021 transaction figures for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, reporting $34.8 billion in total transaction value.  FMS declined for the second consecutive year, down 31 percent from $50.8 billion dollars in transactions in FY 2020.  The 2021 figure represents the lowest volume of FMS transactions since FY 2016.

As recently as FY 2019, FMS program sales totaled $55.4 billion, with a $51 billion average transaction value from 2017-2019.  FMS transactions slipped slightly in FY 2020 to $50.8 billion but then cratered this past year.  Because FMS program sales figures fluctuate annually due to a few, high-value transactions, DSCA includes three-year rolling averages in their annual reports rather than only single year fluctuations.  For example, FMS sales declined 28 percent in FY 2016 before recouping most of those losses the next year.  Therefore, the significant 2021 decline may be an anomaly.  Even though 2021 FMS numbers may recover quickly, several notable takeaways remain.

First, the steep decline in FMS in FY 2021 may not signal a decrease in America’s commitment to its global allies.  Indeed, even though FMS declined by 31 percent, the United States increased funding to the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program from $3.3 billion to $3.8 billion.  In addition, U.S. contributions to the Building Partner Capacity programs remained relatively steady, declining slightly from $2.69 billion to $2.34 billion.  The decrease in overall FMS figures was driven by a 36 percent fall in foreign government-funded transactions.

Second, Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) arrangements between U.S. defense contractors and foreign governments dropped 16.8 percent in FY 2021, from $124.3 billion in FY 2020 to $103.4 billion.  FMS involve the U.S. government directly procuring defense materiel or services before transferring materiel or services to a foreign defense ministry.  In contrast, DCS do not involve the U.S. as a contractual party.  The U.S. government oversees DCS, and U.S. export controls laws govern all DCS.  But, compared to its direct involvement in FMS, the U.S. government’s oversight of DCS is primarily indirect.  Therefore, the decline in DCS may indicate that the budgetary concerns of America’s allies drove the contemporaneous decline in FMS more than the Pentagon’s shifting priorities did.

Third, certain critical factors may impede FMS figures from rebounding quickly in FY 2022.  Besides the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing impact on national defense budgets, the country-by-country figures published by DSCA reveal areas for potential regression in FY 2022.  For example, the FY 2021 figures included approximately $1.26 billion in sales to Afghanistan, an amount that likely will decrease given the recent regime change.  The FY 2021 numbers include a $1.5 billion allocation to France, which appears to have been boosted by an unusually large $1.3 billion transaction to supply aircraft launch and recovery equipment for France’s naval carrier program.  In FY 2022, U.S. sales to France may regress closer to $220 million, the average for transactions with France from the preceding four years.  Germany also entered into an unusually large $1.7 billion FMS contract for P-8A aircraft and accompanying services and equipment.

On the other hand, the United States’ recent commitment to support Australia’s submarine program may offset decreases in U.S. arms sales to countries like Afghanistan, France, and Germany in the long term.  The 2021 agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom to deliver nuclear submarines to Australia will likely have a lasting impact on U.S. defense exports.  Still, the budgetary impact of those commitments on DSCA programs remains uncertain.
Continue Reading U.S. Foreign Military Sales Down Over Thirty Percent in FY 2021

On November 5, 2021, an Editorial Note was added to the Federal Register stating “An agency letter requesting withdrawal of this document was received after placement on public inspection. The document will remain on public inspection through close of business November 4, 2021. A copy

In a December 2020 speech, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Granston warned that cybersecurity fraud could see enhanced enforcement under the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  On October 6, 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) would be following through on that warning with the launch of the DOJ’s Civil

Three summits last week—G-7, NATO, and U.S.-EU—launched a wide range of transatlantic initiatives to coordinate policy, particularly on trade, technology, and defense. These new formats and dialogues can ensure a much deeper level of regulatory cooperation between the United States and Europe by exchanging perspectives, briefing materials, and in some cases, staff. For companies on both sides of the Atlantic, these emerging policy trends also open up new opportunities to engage decision-makers both in Washington and European capitals.
Continue Reading Transatlantic Summits: Main Takeaways for Tech and Defense

As described in an earlier blog post, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an Interim Rule on September 29, 2020 that address DoD’s increased requirements for assessing whether contractors are compliant with the 110 security controls in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171 (NIST 800-171).[1]  Under this new