As you may know, DoD does a great job of adhering to the Berry Amendment, except when it comes to athletic footwear. While many look at the WWII-era law as protectionary, it was created to ensure a viable industrial base for textiles and other clothing, footwear and equipment items. The failure of DoD to follow Berry guidelines for athletic footwear is most apparent during Initial Entry Training where recruits are issued vouchers, which are traded for commercial running shoes at military exchanges. As you can imagine, these shoes are made overseas.
For the past several years, Congress has been working with industry to offer viable American made alternatives to the military. The language in the National Defense Authorization Act has become more specific each year, and now hopefully, we’ll see this latest version become a part of the 2017 NDAA that the President signs into law later this year after it makes it through the rest of the hoops. Now, we’ve got both Saucony and New Balance offering Made in USA running shoes. Once this becomes law, I believe other brands will follow, bringing jobs back to the US.
Rockford, Mich., April 28, 2016 — Wolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW) today commended the House Armed Services Committee’s approval of legislation directing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to provide Berry Amendment compliant athletic footwear to service members upon their initial entry to the armed forces. Currently, the Department of Defense provides a cash allowance to members for the purchase of foreign-made athletic footwear. This important provision was included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and led by Armed Services Committee member Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA.)
“I commend the House Armed Services Committee for this significant provision that will have a direct and positive impact on our ability to provide high quality, American-made athletic footwear to men and women upon their entry to the armed services,” said Blake Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. “Congresswoman Niki Tsongas has exhibited remarkable persistence in her support for American manufacturing and for the needs of American service members. We are greatly appreciative of the commitment demonstrated by Congresswoman Tsongas and the members of the Armed Services committee to support American jobs and maintain a strong footwear industrial base in the United States.”
Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has required the Department of Defense to only purchase American-made and sourced clothing, textiles, foods, and other essential military items for our men and women in uniform. Until today, athletic footwear was not included in the Amendment. The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to ensure the United States is able to maintain viable industries for key military items should conflict break out and disrupt supply lines. This legislation helps support manufacturing jobs and sustains the domestic industrial base that currently builds the combat boots and military dress shoes for the United States Armed Services.
With a longstanding partnership with the United States Department of Defense, Wolverine Worldwide operates a manufacturing plant located in Big Rapids, Mich. that employs more than 600 people who currently and proudly build a broad spectrum of Bates Footwear for the men and women of the United States military. Products manufactured in Big Rapids include combat boots for the service branches, mountain combat boots for Special Operations Forces, and military dress shoes.
Wolverine Worldwide has athletic footwear manufacturing capabilities in its Big Rapids facility through its Saucony brand. Saucony is a leading global performance running brand that was founded in the United States in 1898. The brand is known for its best-in-class design, innovation and performance technology. Saucony maintains and is presently expanding its technical research laboratory in Lexington, MA where the Company performs material testing as well as biomechanical, physiological and sensory analysis of runners. The athletic footwear capabilities of the Company’s Big Rapids facility are due to the creation and engineering of an advanced manufacturing line that can produce 100% Berry-compliant Saucony running shoes. The Company is looking forward to building American-made athletic shoes for American troops as a result of this critical amendment included in the NDAA.