U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today introduced a bill that would address a serious loophole within the Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition process and support American jobs by requiring DOD to provide initial entry service men and women in the Armed Forces with American-made athletic shoes upon arrival at basic training.
The bill, authored by Senator Collins and co-sponsored by Senator King, would require DOD to treat athletic footwear like every other uniform item, including boots, and ensure that such items are bought from American manufacturers, such as New Balance.
"The President said in his State of the Union address that one of his top priorities is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. We share this priority," Senator Collins said. "One way we can make that possible without increasing the federal deficit a single dime is to make sure that the athletic footwear purchased every year by entry-level military recruits is manufactured by U.S. companies like New Balance."
"America's athletic footwear manufacturers are highly competitive and can meet the diverse needs of our nation's servicemen and women," Senator King said. "By ensuring that entry-level recruits use U.S.-made athletic footwear, like the Berry Amendment intended, our legislation supports local manufacturing, invests in real jobs for people throughout Maine and across the nation, and ensures that our new servicemen and women have the finest athletic footwear available."
Congress passed the Berry Amendment in 1941 to ensure that American soldiers trained and operated, to the greatest extent possible, with American-made uniforms and equipment. Servicemen and women are provided with dress uniforms, combat uniforms, and physical training (PT) uniforms. These items are standardized "uniform" items determined by the DOD, and for decades, the apparel and footwear for each of these uniforms was American-made as required by law.
However, in 2002 the Army, followed by the Air Force in 2008, altered its acquisition process such that it no longer directly procured American-made athletic footwear for issue to incoming recruits. Instead, military recruits are given an "allowance" and are required to "purchase" athletic footwear thus, in the opinion of DOD, exempting athletic footwear from domestic sourcing requirements because such individual purchases fall below the simplified acquisition threshold.
To correct that change in process, this bill would require that any footwear furnished or provided by cash allowance to members of the Armed Forces upon initial entry in the Armed Forces shall comply with domestic source requirements.
A version of this legislation is also being introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree.