Poliquin bill would require DoD to supply American-made shoes to troops

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) recently co-offered bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to outfit troops with American-made shoes.

Under the Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act, H.R. 4935, the DoD would be required to abide by the Berry Amendment, a law passed in 1941 that requires American-made products to be supplied to troops to the greatest extent possible.

The DoD began issuing cash allowances that enabled new recruits to buy training shoes from any manufacturer in 2002. In light of congressional complaints that such allowances enabled troops to sidestep the Berry Amendment, the DoD announced in 2014 that it would end its allowance policy — but that hasn’t happened yet.

American manufacturers, including the New England-based New Balance, are now capable of manufacturing shoes that are 100 percent in compliance with the Berry Amendment.

“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,” Poliquin said. “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.”

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), who led congressional efforts to close the DoD’s footwear loophole in 2014, co-introduced the bipartisan Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act with Poliquin.

“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,” Poliquin said.

Matt LeBretton, the vice president of public affairs for New Balance, said that the bill was an important step in rectifying what has been “an inequity in the application of the federal law.”

“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,” LeBretton said. “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.”

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