WASHINGTON, DC -- A news story recently highlighted the story of a deployed Air Force Master Sergeant who was twice issued boots made in China. When he asked how he could exchange them for American-made boots, he was told "good luck." Congressman Mike Michaud is now joining forces with Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to build support across the aisle on Capitol Hill in order to put pressure on the Department of Defense (DOD) to address this issue and broader military procurement problems.
"We all remember the outrage this summer when it was discovered that our Olympic athletes were wearing uniforms made in China," said Michaud, during a hearing today. "Well I think we should be as equally outraged about the fact that our troops are not wearing 100 percent American-made uniforms. Our soldiers put their lives on the line for us, and they should fight in uniforms they can trust -- uniforms made in the USA."
Congressman Mike Michaud joined his fellow Veterans' Affairs Committee members from the House and Senate this morning for a joint hearing to receive the legislative priorities of the American Legion. James Koutz, the National Commander for the American Legion, talked about the need to ensure returning servicemembers and veterans have training and job opportunities as they transition to civilian life. During the hearing, Koutz agreed with Michaud that military uniforms should be made in the USA. A video clip from the hearing can be found here.
Michaud was a strong supporter of the "Vow to Hire Heroes Act," which is a bipartisan bill that became law and is now providing veterans extended GI Bill benefits, expanded vocational training opportunities, and additional career counseling and job search assistance. As another way to create job opportunities in the U.S., Michaud highlighted at the hearing today the need for the DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment, which is a law that requires the military to purchase certain items that are made in the U.S., including uniforms. Michaud has been pushing DOD to comply with the Berry Amendment, and has introduced legislation to address this problem. Full compliance could help domestic footwear makers like New Balance, which has a significant presence in Maine.
The text of a letter Michaud and Hunter will send to the DOD and are collecting signatures on.
The Honorable Frank Kendall
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L)
Department of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear Secretary Kendall:
We write to urge you to ensure the Department of Defense's complete compliance with the letter and the spirit of the Berry Amendment. We believe full compliance of the Berry Amendment is in our national security interests and in our national economic interests. Moreover, we strongly believe that our troops should train and serve in uniforms made 100% here in the U.S.A.
As you know, the Berry Amendment requires DOD to procure clothing and other items that are made in the U.S. Congress first established this domestic preference for DOD procurement in 1941, and for decades the military branches complied by issuing American-made uniforms, including footwear, for our troops.
Recently, however, DOD has started circumventing this policy by issuing cash allowances for soldiers to purchase their own training shoes. In addition, a recent news report highlighted an Air Force Master Sergeant who was twice issued boots made in China. When he asked how he could exchange them for American-made boots, he was told "good luck." In both cases, the military purchased foreign products despite the availability of the exact same items that are manufactured and readily available in the U.S.
At a time when our country is at war and when our economy is recovering from a deep recession, it is more important than ever that DOD comply with the Berry Amendment. We should not rely on other countries, particularly those who may have competing global interests, to supply our forces with basic items. This is especially true when there are millions of Americans looking for work. More importantly, our soldiers deserve to fight in uniforms, including footwear, that are made in the U.S.A.
We are deeply troubled that DOD is circumventing the Berry Amendment, and we urge you to take all steps necessary to ensure that your agency complies with the spirit and the intent of the law.
Michael H. Michaud and Duncan Hunter
Members of Congress