Defense Department Looking at Domestically Manufactured Athletic Footwear

Defense Department Looking at Domestically Manufactured Athletic Footwear

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has begun the process of evaluating domestically manufactured athletic footwear sources for possible procurement, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced. That action, known as a “Sources Sought,” is the result of language added to the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act Joint Explanatory Statement, which was included at the request of Senators Collins and King. The Defense Department will seek sources of domestic athletic footwear in order to demonstrate that it meets the requirements for new recruits in the military.

“One way we can make America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing 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,” Senator Collins said. “American workers can meet the footwear requirements of nearly all our military service members if they are simply given the opportunity.”

“Domestic shoe manufactures, like New Balance, produce some of the highest quality footwear found anywhere in the world and are more than capable of meeting the demands our military personnel,” said Senator King. “With this search, the DOD is one step closer to supporting local manufacturing, investing in jobs here at home, and ensuring that our entry-level recruits have the finest American-made uniforms and equipment available – just as the Berry Amendment originally intended.”

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.

In May, Senator Collins and Senator King authored a bill that 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, which manufactures some of its products at factories in Norridgewock, Skowhegan, and Norway, Maine.