Congresswoman Niki Tsongas has championed legislation that will boost local and national footwear manufacturing while simultaneously providing assistance to US servicemembers. The amendment, co-sponsored by Representative Mike Michaud (D-Maine), was successfully added, late last night, to the final version of the House of Representatives' National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill that sets policy and funding for the Department of Defense (DOD).
The legislation corrects a serious loophole within the DOD acquisition process that is costing American manufacturing jobs while limiting the ability of U.S. military personnel to train in American-made athletic footwear.
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.
However, since FY 2002, the Defense Department has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for training shoes which are not required to be Berry-compliant. The Tsongas-Michaud amendment would reverse this practice.
Massachusetts manufacturer New Balance now produces a 100 percent Berry-compliant shoe that costs less than the current Army allowance. There is at least one other footwear manufacturing company that can currently provide a 100 percent Berry-compliant athletic shoe, and more than a dozen other companies have begun the process to begin making such footwear.
If passed, the law would not go into effect until after the Secretary of Defense certifies that there are at least two domestic suppliers who can provide 100% Berry-compliant athletic shoes, in order to prevent any concerns about domestic competition.
"It is time for the Department of Defense to treat athletic footwear like every other uniform item, including boots, and buy them from American manufacturers," said Congresswoman Tsongas. "DoD has spent approximately $180 million on the athletic footwear cash allowance program to date, which is money that could have gone to American jobs and manufacturing."
Tsongas continued:"The Army originally cited the lack of compliant, American-made options in the marketplace to justify its allowance program. But today, those arguments are not valid. Innovative companies, such as New Balance right here in Massachusetts, are able to provide our servicemembers with quality products and keep business here on American soil. We are boosting job growth, spurring economic development and innovation and giving the brave men and women of our armed forces better gear. This amendment is a win all around."
"This legislation is a very important win for domestic manufacturing in Massachusetts and across the country," said Matt LeBretton, Director of Public Affairs for New Balance. "Congresswoman Tsongas has shown great leadership on many issues and her support for Made in the USA issues should be trumpeted far and wide. American troops should be outfitted by our government in gear made in our homeland and the entire domestic footwear manufacturing sector is grateful for the Congresswoman's support and that of her colleagues."