Have you ever asked yourself why your combat boots have to be made in the USA but not your running shoes? If so, you’re not the only one. It seems that some members of Congress have been asking the same thing of our military services. The answer? In a nutshell, “We don’t buy them because they don’t make them.”
As we are sure you are aware, the Berry Amendment requires that any textile and footwear related item procured by the DOD be manufactured within the United States, and made of domestically produced materials. However, as it currently stands, the procurement of athletic footwear varies by service, and in general, members of the military are either required to purchase their own athletic footwear, or are given a taxable cash allowance as part of their compensation. As a result, many US troops are wearing foreign-made running shoes.
Pursuant to this, on March 30, 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) submitted an interim response to the requirement of the Committee Print Number 10 of the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (Public Law 111-383), regarding DOD’s change in policy on athletic footwear for members of the Armed Forces. Under the new policy, DOD provides members an increased clothing allowance in order to purchase footwear, rather than purchasing it on their behalf. The interim report indicates that the new policy `provides new recruits the ability to buy commercially available running shoes of their choice, in consideration of the uniqueness of their individual physiology, running style, and individual comfort and fit requirements’ and `ensures that recruits are able to select and wear the type and size athletic shoe that provides the greatest comfort and reduces lower extremity injuries.’
But there’s an even bigger issue here. Last year’s FY11 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a directive that required DOD to issue a report to Congress outlining its rationale for policies regarding distribution of athletic footwear for service members. Rather, DLA’s report back to Congress states that `A single model of athletic shoes which meets all of these requirements, at the selected price point, from a US supplier has not been identified.’ However, DOD does not appear to have conducted any market research or other systematic review to support this conclusion.
To ensure DLA has an accurate read on the industryâ€™s abilities, the FY12 NDAA contains a directive requiring market research on potential sources of athletic footwear for members of the Armed Services. This includes pricing of domestically produced athletic footwear that could be made available to meet DOD needs. It is important to note that DOD is instructed to conduct a survey of all major athletic footwear manufacturers and an assessment of the extent to which the supply of such athletic footwear could be increased if a domestic non-availability determination (DNAD) were made, as it has been in the past, for certain materials incorporated into such footwear.
Accordingly, the committee directs DOD to conduct market research, as provided in Part 10 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Part 210 of the DOD Supplement to the FAR, to assess the variety and pricing of domestically-produced athletic footwear that could be made available to meet DOD needs. The market research should include a survey of all major athletic footwear manufacturers and an assessment of the extent to which the supply of such athletic footwear could be increased if a domestic non-availability determination were made, as it has been in the past, for certain materials incorporated into such footwear. The committee directs the Secretary to provide an updated report on the need for the new policy, in light of the data provided by such market research, by no later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
This is where industry becomes critical to making this effort a success; industry needs to illustrate to Congress and DOD that it is ready and willing to support the warfighter, and create American jobs, by confirming their ability to manufacture Berry compliant athletic footwear.
What Congress and the DOD need to see in the survey is:
- What Berry compliant athletic footwear can industry produce?
- Does this capability include a variety of shoes and models great enough to meet the demands of service members?
The FY12 NDAA passed Congress and was recently signed into law by President Obama. We anticipate this survey will be conducted within the coming months, as it has been marked a high priority to the Armed Services Committees. Participate. It is imperative that footwear manufacturers who are interested in potentially manufacturing athletic footwear and footwear components respond to this survey. There is no other way to show DoD and Congress that this can be done by American workers.