Tsongas, Poliquin introduce Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) introduced legislation to boost local and national footwear manufacturing while simultaneously supplying U.S. servicemembers with the best equipment possible. The Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act requires the Department of Defense to adhere to a long-established law – the Berry Amendment – that provides U.S. servicemembers with American-made clothing, footwear and other equipment.
Congress passed the Berry Amendment in 1941, which required the DOD to purchase, to the greatest extent possible, American-made clothing, textiles and more in order to ensure American soldiers trained and operated with American-made uniforms and equipment. However, since FY 2002 the DOD has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for training shoes, which are not required to be American-made or Berry Amendment-compliant.
In 2014, after longstanding efforts from Rep. Tsongas and other Members of Congress, including Members from Maine and Michigan, the DOD agreed to change its policy and close this footwear loophole. The policy change was announced in a letter to Rep. Tsongas and other Members from then-Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox.
Despite that announcement, more than two years later, the DOD has yet to actually implement it and rectify this fundamental inequity in the application of the Berry Amendment.
Accordingly, Rep. Tsongas and Rep. Poliquin are pursuing this new, concerted effort that requires the Department to complete the policy change and adhere to the Berry Amendment without using cash allowances for athletic shoes that sidestep the law. In circumventing the policy, it is estimated that DOD has spent approximately $180 million on athletic footwear and the cash allowance program – critical funds that could have gone to American jobs and manufacturing.
Several American companies, including New Balance located in New England, have developed the ability to produce 100% Berry compliant athletic shoes.
“This legislation is simple and straightforward: the DOD needs to adhere to the law and stop circumventing a policy that is a win for both domestic manufacturing and our servicemembers,” said Congresswoman Tsongas. “In light of tremendous investment by industries right here in Massachusetts and throughout New England, there are now high quality, 100 percent American-made athletic shoe options available to the Department of Defense. It is time the DOD stops stalling and moves the process forward. The benefits are widespread, as the closing of this loophole would simultaneously provide our servicemembers with high quality training shoes, keep business here on American soil, boost job growth and continue to spur American economic development and innovation.”
“New Balance employs 900 Maine craftsmen across our State, in Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Norway, who work hard to make the highest quality athletic shoes in the world,” said Congressman Poliquin. “Manufacturers in Maine and across our Nation, like New Balance, have invested in their production to make sure that their American-made shoes are fully Berry Amendment compliant. I am proud to introduce this bill with Congresswoman Tsongas, which will make sure the Berry Amendment is fully implemented and these American-made shoes are available for our American men and women serving to protect our freedom.”
“This legislation will be an important step forward in rectifying what has been an inequity in the application of the federal law known as the Berry Amendment,” said Matt LeBretton, Vice President of Public Affairs for New Balance. “Congresswoman Tsongas has been a champion for U.S. manufacturing throughout the course of her career and we are grateful for her and Congressman Poliquin’s support of the domestic footwear industry. We welcome this legislation and look forward to getting further details on implementation from the Defense Department. It’s time that our troops are outfitted in high quality athletic footwear that is Made in America.”