Last night, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Michaud that would require any footwear provided to members of the Armed Forces upon initial entry be made in America. New Balance, which can make footwear to comply with federal procurement rules (photo attached), employs hundreds of Mainers in Norway, Norridgewock and Skowhegan.
"I have been working for years to convince President Obama and the Defense Department to comply with the law for domestically sourced uniforms," said Michaud, who sponsored the amendment that passed last night with Rep. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts. "This amendment will guarantee that our troops fight and train in American-made uniforms from head to toe--something that most Mainers I talk to are surprised to hear isn't the case right now. Passage of this amendment is good news and a significant step forward for footwear manufacturing in Maine and throughout the country."
Under the Berry Amendment, the Department of Defense (DOD) cannot procure clothing items for servicemembers unless they are produced in the United States. This has been the standing policy since 1941. Since 2002, however, DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for their own purchase of athletic training shoes. Two major domestic athletic footwear brands--New Balance and Wolverine World Wide--are already prepared to produce 100% Berry compliant athletic shoes for the military.
"Mike Michaud has been a tireless leader on behalf of manufacturers in Maine and this amendment is another example of his efficacy. When the government gives American troops goods, those items, including athletic footwear, should be made in the United States. This common sense amendment corrects this inequity, and we are thankful for Representative Michaud's efforts and those of his colleagues in the House," said Matt LeBretton, Director of Public Affairs for New Balance.
In May, Michaud introduced a bill with Rep. Chellie Pingree requiring DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment by treating the purchase of athletic footwear in the same way as other uniform items. The introduction of this bill built on legislation Michaud first introduced in 2011 to accomplish the same goal as the amendment that passed last night. Senators Collins and King have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.