Senators Ask President Obama To Ensure That Athletic Footwear For Soldiers Is Made In USA

Apr 23, 2013, 13:21 ET from New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.:

Senators are asking President Obama to apply the Berry Amendment to athletic footwear so that manufacturing jobs can be created in the United States and military trainees receive American-made goods rather than foreign products.  

In an April 19th letter to the President, a bi-partisan group of 15 Senators wrote that they shared the President's objective outlined in his State of the Union Address to encourage manufacturers to create more jobs in America.

"We can increase American footwear manufacturing jobs at no cost to the federal government simply by your directing the Department of Defense (DOD) to align its athletic footwear procurement policies to those it has already adopted for other footwear, such as combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform items," the letter said. It urged the President "to insist that footwear worn by our troops is top quality and made in America in keeping with the intent of the law known as the 'Berry Amendment.'"

Written by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), the letter was signed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse  (D-RI), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Roy Blunt (R- MO), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Mo Cowan (D-MA), Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The Berry Amendment was enacted in 1941 to ensure that American soldiers trained and operated in American-made materials whenever possible.  As required by the law, the Defense Department purchases combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform apparel that is made in America for military recruits. For decades, American-made footwear was treated the same way.

But under new polices enacted over the last 11 years, the acquisition process no longer directly procures American-made athletic footwear for incoming recruits and other personnel.  Now, military personnel receive a cash allowance to "purchase" the athletic footwear of their choice regardless of where it is manufactured.

The cash allowances for athletic shoes are valued at about $15 million annually, which far surpasses the minimum acquisition threshold of $150,000 that triggers compliance under the Berry Amendment. In their letter, the Senators noted that the Defense Logistics Agency has awarded more than $36 million since October 2012 to domestic companies for other footwear such as combat boots and shoes.

The Defense Department's policy shift has placed jobs in jeopardy in states, such as Maine and Massachusetts, where New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. has offices and plants. New Balance is the last surviving American athletic footwear manufacturer.

"Maine has a long and proud shoemaking history, and the men and women who work in the New Balance factories in our state are part of that legacy," said Sen. Collins. "The Department of Defense can make a sound investment in American factories, providing good-paying manufacturing jobs in Maine, and at no added cost to the government."

Added Sen. King: "Maine's shoemakers, including the talented workforce at New Balance, produce some of the highest quality footwear in the United States and can undoubtedly meet the diverse needs of our servicemen and women. The Department of Defense needs to support our highly competitive, domestic athletic shoe manufacturers in the same way it does combat boot and shoe manufacturers, just like the Berry Amendment always intended."

Matt LeBretton, Director of Public Affairs for New Balance, said the language in the Defense Department's Acquisition Regulations System (DFARS) clearly includes footwear among the clothing covered by the Berry Amendment. He said that athletic footwear should be made in America whether it is purchased by the military for its personnel or is purchased through cash allowances."

"The Berry Amendment should apply," said Mr. LeBretton. "Our industry has come together to request that the DOD simply follow their own rules and allow for a competitive environment where companies that are committed to manufacturing in the United States are encouraged to do so. We are hopeful that the Administration will correct this inequity and support domestic manufacturers."

Of the company's more than 1350 manufacturing associates, about 900 are located in Maine.

In October, Representatives Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sent a bipartisan letter signed by 50 Members of Congress to the Defense Department, asking that athletic footwear be included under the Berry Amendment.

"Our effort is gaining momentum. Americans take pride in what's produced on our soil," Mr. LeBretton said. "We believe the White House will agree that it is important to produce jobs for Americans and to outfit our armed forces with American-made goods."

Media Contacts:
Michael K. Frisby 202.625.4328
Paula Gates 617.488.2853

SOURCE New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc