WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded an announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that it would give precedence to U.S. manufacturers when making taxpayer funded procurements. In fully abiding by the “Berry Amendment,” DoD will require U.S. service members to use their athletic footwear allowances on American made products, benefiting domestic companies like Portsmouth’s Sole Choice. In April 2013, Brown urged President Obama to support American workers and businesses by only purchasing athletic footwear that is made with American produced materials. DoD’s decision is the culmination of that and other likeminded efforts.
“American taxpayer dollars should be spent supporting the American economy,” Brown said. “The Defense Department’s decision will strengthen U.S. manufacturing and benefit local shoe companies like Portsmouth’s Sole Choice. The Administration should continue to endorse ‘Buy American’ provisions which create jobs while supporting our service members.”
Before DoD’s decision, the Army, Navy, and Air Force provided 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 urged DoD to also purchase athletic footwear made here in the United States. DoD’s decision will benefit domestic athletic footwear companies like Portsmouth’s Sole Choice, which manufactures the laces for American shoe producer, New Balance. Brown often wears New Balance shoes on the Senate floor because they’re American made. In 2012, Brown met with New Balance’s CEO to discuss government procurements and the Berry Amendment, which is similar in its objectives to Brown’s Wear American Act.
Current law only requires that the federal government’s non-defense agencies purchase textile products that are 51 percent American made. Brown’s Wear American Act, however, would require all textile products purchased by federal agencies to be made in the United States. This would create domestic jobs and potentially benefit local businesses. It would also ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t used to purchase goods made with child labor in substandard to intolerable working conditions. Recent press reports have cited a lack of federal government oversight and disclosure as it relates to its purchase of products made overseas. The federal government, in fact, spends more than $1.5 billion a year on foreign-made products, with too many made in factories with gross human rights violations.
Described as “Congress’ leading proponent of American Manufacturing,” Brown continues to fight for “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. government. Brown introduced, and helped passed, a bipartisan amendment to the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that would ensure that American-made iron, steel, and manufactured goods are used in federally-funded water infrastructure projects whenever they are available and competitively priced. And during consideration of the Highway Bill, Brown successfully strengthened Buy American provisions for highway projects—closing loopholes that allowed companies to evade Buy American requirements by segmenting contracts.
After a July 2012 report that Team USA’s summer Olympic uniforms were made in China, Brown led Senate efforts to urge the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to utilize domestic clothing makers for future Olympics, including this year’s games in Russia. In January 2014, Brown applauded the Ralph Lauren Corp. for designing and manufacturing the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic uniforms using only domestic manufacturers and craftsmen. The American made uniforms that were worn in this year’s games were the result of Brown’s efforts and others like it.
Brown’s April 2013 letter to President Obama can be read in its entirety 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.