U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has introduced a bill in Congress which would require that any athletic footwear the Department of Defense buys for service members be made in the U.S.
The bill, if adopted, would benefit the New Balance shoe manufacturing company, which has plants in Maine.
HR 2955, the American Shoes for American Servicemembers Act, would clarify that the Berry Amendment, adopted 70 years ago, always has applied and continues to apply to footwear.
Michaud also sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to force the Pentagon to abide by the law.
The Berry Amendment was passed by Congress in 1941 and made permanent in 1994. It requires food, clothing, fabrics, specialty metals and stainless steel used by the military to be grown or produced in the U.S.
“DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to soldiers for their own purchase of training shoes,” Michaud said in the letter to Obama. “DOD claimed that items bought with a soldier’s cash allowance did not constitute procurement and, therefore, were not subject to Berry Amendment standards.
“DOD’s ability to avoid Berry Amendment requirements simply by issuing a cash allowance for certain uniform items is troubling, and their sudden decision not to issue American-made athletic footwear is disconcerting,” he said.
Michaud went on to argue that service members’ dress uniforms, combat uniforms and physical training uniforms and its footwear all comply with the Berry Amendment. Soldiers’ physical training footwear is the only item the DOD says doesn’t apply.
Ed Gilman, Michaud’s communications director, said Obama’s view is consistent with that of of the congressman.
Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Buy America Act, which had similar domestic procurement requirements for projects funded by federal money.
“We think it’s very consistent of where’s he’s been,” said Gilman. “It just makes sense.”
Gilman said it usually takes weeks to hear back from the president.
“I’m hopeful he’ll take action on this and that [a] legislative solution isn’t needed,” Michaud said in a press release. “Federal contracting policies should benefit American businesses and workers to the greatest extent possible, which is consistent with the president’s national address the other night.”
In August, Michaud visited Skowhegan’s New Balance plant to speak to workers and promote his position.
“If our soldiers’ uniforms have to be made in America, so should the shoes that they use to train,” he said on Aug. 23 in Skowhegan.
“New Balance currently makes Berry-compliant athletic footwear and has 5,000 pairs of these shoes sitting on their shelves. American-made [personal training] shoes are available, and DOD should comply with the intent of the Berry Amendment and issue them to our troops,” Michaud said in the letter to Obama.