The new rule puts the Defense Department squarely in line with the so-called “Berry Amendment” mandating the department buy U.S.-manufactured goods and products whenever possible. The law has been around since 1941 and was passed to provide protections to U.S. manufacturing, but was beefed up in 2006 to ensure that DoD funds were not used to buy a broad range of products unless they are entirely made in the U.S.
By then, the number of U.S. companies making athletic shoes in the U.S. was down to one, New Balance, which is headquartered in Maine. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, provided the Pentagon with prototypes and design plans for “Berry Amendment-compliant” athletic shoes in December, according to an April 25 letter from Acting Secretary of Defense Christine Fox to Michaud.
Fox told Michaud in the letter that, currently, “no footwear manufacturer sells Berry Amendment-complaint athletic shoes” but that several have the capability to do so.
Michaud called the new Pentagon rule “a tremendous victory for American manufacturers.”
“It only makes sense that we equip our country’s bravest men and women with products made by some of our country’s hardest working manufacturers,” he said.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he was pleased the Pentagon’s decision, which he said complies with Congressional intent and is what the American people want.
“If we can provide U.S.-made athletic shoes to our troops – and I believe we can – we should do so,” Levin said.
Navy Times reported that Marine Corps will not be affected by the new rule because it does not provide a one-time allowance specifically for footwear, but a general clothing allowance.
Fox said in her letter to Michaud that athletic shoes meeting the law will become available only after being tested to ensure they meet the recruits’ needs. Until Berry Amendment-compliant shoes are available, recruits will be able to buy any brand that meets their needs, she wrote.
“If, for a given shoe type category, no Berry Amendment-compliant option exists in the commercial marketplace, other shoe models appropriate to recruits’ requirement will continue to be made available,” Fox told Michaud.
Of course there are questions of just how “Made-in-America” New Balance shoes really are. Last year, only a quarter of the New Balance shoes sold in the U.S. were produced in America according to a company website. This is considerably higher than competitors, but it still leaves the question of whether New Balance does meet the requirement.