Trade Resources Industry Views Senate Passes Defense Bill with Amendment on Made-in-America Athletic Shoes

Senate Passes Defense Bill with Amendment on Made-in-America Athletic Shoes

The U.S. Senate passed a defense bill with language requiring the Pentagon to buy US-made athletic shoes for military recruits.

ADVERTISEMENT The legislation is expected to benefit Boston-based New Balance, which has three factories in Maine employing about 900 workers, and which says it has developed a Berry Amendment-compliant shoe that would be supported by the new legislation.

The U.S. House approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with the provision in April and it is now expected to head to a conference committee where members of both houses of Congress will meet to consolidate the two versions of the bill. It also will have to be signed by the president before becoming law.

The bill faces a potential veto from President Obama because of a long list of objections from the administration over a variety of issues, including the athletic footwear provision.

The Berry Amendment, enacted in 1941, mandates that the Department of Defense buy U.S.-made apparel for troops, but a loophole in the amendment has allowed the department for years to give recruits vouchers to buy athletic shoes of their choice, rather than American-made ones. The legislation could influence the purchase of as many as 200,000 pairs of shoes a year, totaling roughly $15 million.

New Balance has lobbied heavily for the measure, particularly after the Pentagon showed reluctance to buying American-made shoes from New Balance, citing their cost.

“All we’re trying to do is to get the Department of Defense to follow the laws that have been on the books for 80 years,” Matt LeBretton, vice president of public affairs at New Balance, told the Boston Globe. “We look forward to having American-made shoes on American recruits.”

Critics have said the legislation would simply amount to a giveaway to New Balance, and would do little to help military recruits who might want a broader choice of sneakers.

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