WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the Obama Administration to purchase American-made athletic footwear for servicemembers. In a bipartisan letter to President Obama, Brown and a group of 14 senators urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to adopt the same “Buy American” policies for athletic footwear that are already in place for combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform items. The policy change would benefit American manufacturers, like Sole Choice in Portsmouth, which produces the laces for New Balance athletic shoes.
“Taxpayer dollars should support American workers” Brown said. “Our nation’s economic strength is tied to a strong manufacturing sector – and we should be doing everything we can to support American manufacturing.”
Currently, the Army, Navy, and Air Force provide cash vouchers to new recruits to purchase athletic footwear, without any preference for domestically manufactured products. Because DoD purchases American-made combat boots, service shoes, and nearly every other uniform type in bulk for initial entry recruits, Brown called on the DoD to also purchase athletic footwear made here in the United States for our troops.
Brown is a long-time proponent of “Buy America” policies to give preference to domestic manufacturing. Last March, the Senate passed Brown’s provision to support Ohio-made steel by giving American companies and workers a preference to domestically-produced iron, steel, and other manufactured goods in infrastructure projects that receive federal aid. In July 2012, Brown introduced an effort to boost domestic apparel and textile manufacturing by ensuring that the federal government purchases apparel that is 100-percent American made. Current Buy America statutes require that only 51 percent of these products purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars be “made in America”. Brown’s legislation, the All-American Flag Act, also passed the Senate in July 2011. The bill ensures that flags purchased by the Federal government are entirely made in America.
Full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. President:
One of your top priorities put forth in your State of the Union address is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. You identified Caterpillar and Ford Motor Company as American job creators, and you announced that Apple will soon be manufacturing Mac computers in the United States.
We share your goal of encouraging manufacturers to create jobs here in America. We hope you will add domestic footwear manufacturers to this list of companies that are creating new American manufacturing jobs and would agree with us that they should not face unnecessary barriers in doing so. 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.
Let us give you some background on this issue. Since October 2012, the Defense Logistics Agency has awarded more than $36 million in domestic footwear manufacturing contracts to companies such as Altama Footwear, Capps Shoe Company, Rocky Brands, and Wolverine for combat boots and men’s and women’s shoes. In contrast, the Army, Navy, and Air Force provide cash vouchers to new recruits to purchase athletic footwear, without any preference for domestically manufactured products. Given that DoD purchases American-made combat boots, service shoes, and nearly every other uniform type in bulk for initial entry recruits, the DoD should also purchase athletic footwear made here in the United States for our troops.
We hope that Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, will visit one of the premier domestic athletic shoe manufacturers to see first-hand that the domestic capacity exists to produce high-quality athletic shoes at a cost comparable to what we are already allocating to our service members for such footwear. We are sure Secretary Kendall will be impressed by the skill and workmanship of our domestic footwear manufacturers. American workers can meet the footwear requirements of nearly all our service members if you simply give them this opportunity. We urge you to insist that the 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.”
Thank you for your attention to this request, and we look forward to hearing from you.