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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senator King that would ensure the Department of Defense provides military recruits with athletic footwear made in the U.S.A.
The Berry Amendment, established by Congress in 1941, requires the Department to give preference to clothing and other items made in the United States for any contract valued at $150,000 or more.
For decades, the military issued American-made uniforms, including athletic footwear, for our troops. However since fiscal year 2002, the purpose and intent of the Berry Amendment have been undermined by a change in DOD policy. The Army, Air Force, and the Navy now provide a cash voucher that incoming servicemembers use to purchase athletic footwear, without providing any preference for domestically manufactured footwear.
DOD claims that a soldier's individual purchase of athletic footwear with a DOD-provided cash allowance is not subject to the Berry Amendment because such individual purchases fall below the simplified acquisition threshold of $150,000.
Yet, the cash allowances provided with Federal funds for athletic shoes are valued at about $15 million annually, an amount that is 100 times the minimum contract value at which the Berry Amendment applies.
Like all other clothing items issued directly by the military services, athletic footwear should be made in the U.S.A. by American companies. It is time for DoD to treat athletic footware like every other uniform item, including boots, and buy them from American manufacturers.
This bill would require DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment for footwear either issued directly to or through a cash allowance to servicemembers upon initial entry into the Armed Forces. In other words, athletic footwear would be treated like boots and all other uniform items.
In the past, opponents of ensuring compliance with the Berry amendment have argued there is an insufficient domestic market for athletic shoes, that Berry compliant shoes somehow would not provide adequate comfort or safety, and that athletic shoes are not uniform items. None of these objections withstands scrutiny.
After the Senate Armed Services Committee required DOD to conduct a market survey to determine vendor interest, DOD found that vendor interest and capacity do exist to support a Berry compliant shoe market. The report also found that at least two American companies can produce high-quality Berry compliant footwear right now in the quantity and at the price point needed. Today, a 100 percent Berry compliant shoe is on the market at a price of $68, $6 less than the current Army allowance of $74, and without requiring waivers.
The comfort argument is also based on the unfounded premise that recruits somehow would not enjoy the same degree of comfort or safety with a Berry compliant shoe. Yet the military makes no distinction for boots or other uniform shoes, to no adverse effect upon recruits. To address this concern, however, the amendment would exempt servicemembers requiring a waiver for medical reasons.
Finally, I dispute the characterization that athletic shoes are not uniform items. Federal funds are used to purchase the shoes, and recruits are required to wear them. If this is not a uniform item, why are we allocating Federal funding at all? I would also suggest that any initial entry trainee who arrives at a physical training formation without athletic shoes would also dispute the characterization.
This bill is consistent with several Congressional interventions that have corrected a pattern of Federal agencies ignoring or narrowly interpreting domestic sourcing statutes contrary to Congress's intent.
During the Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the fiscal year 2013 NDAA, the Committee unanimously adopted an amendment offered by Senator Graham to require the fabric of clothing provided to Afghanistan security forces comply with the Berry Amendment without exception or exemption.
In July 2012, 12 Senators introduced legislation to require the United States Olympic Committee adopt a policy that ceremonial athletic uniforms, including accessories such as shoes, be produced in the United States.
If American-made uniforms are appropriate for U.S. Olympic athletes and Afghan security personnel, surely our servicemembers deserve the same. Federal funds for clothing worn by new recruits should benefit American workers and American companies rather than workers overseas.
This is about supporting American manufacturing jobs and having American soldiers fight and train in American-made footwear. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to provide military recruits with athletic footwear made in the U.S.A.
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