Wolverine Worldwide backs legislation requiring military to buy US-made athletic shoes

Wolverine Worldwide backs legislation requiring military to buy US-made athletic shoes

Wolverine Worldwide is praising proposed legislation that would limit recruits’ choice of athletic shoes to American-made.

The House Armed Services Committee’s proposed legislation directs the Department of Defense to comply with existing law by procuring American-made athletic shoes for Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine recruits. The committee’s Senate counterpart has already passed a similar version.

If approved, the law will have an immediate positive impact on domestic manufacturers of footwear and the U.S. supply chain for American-made shoes, says the Rockford-based footwear giant, which sells athletic brands Merrell and Saucony.

Wolverine Worldwide, which already had military contracts for its Bates boots made in Big Rapids, would be one of two companies that could compete for the voucher business. The other is the Boston-based New Balance.

Athletic shoes may be the only loophole when it comes to soldier’s clothing that doesn’t meet a federal law requiring items to be made with domestic materials by U.S. suppliers. Most athletic shoes sold in the U.S. are made overseas where labor costs are cheaper.

The battle over recruits’ athletic footwear dates back to 2002 when a decision was made to provide vouchers to new service members to purchase athletic shoes rather than military-issued shoes to accommodate comfort, safety and varying tastes, according to the Navy Times.

The military spends about $15 million each year on the vouchers, and supporters say switching to domestically-made shoes could save the government money as well.

Proponents credit the legislation with helping support the domestic industrial base and thousands of manufacturing jobs that provide the necessary equipment for our troops, all with no additional cost to the taxpayer.

The legislation would have an impact on Wolverine Worldwide’s manufacturing operations in Michigan, said CEO Blake Krueger.

“We know that our world-class domestic manufacturing operations are capable of producing advanced athletic footwear that will support the training needs for all service branches,” said Krueger. “Our Saucony, Merrell and Bates brands will be at the forefront of this effort and we will continue to invest in our domestic operations to enhance the ability to deliver innovative products to our customers.”