Defense Department Pushed to Buy 'Made in America' Military Uniforms

Sen. Sherrod Brown pushes DOD to follow "Made in America" law.

ByABC News
October 18, 2012, 8:11 AM

Oct. 18, 2012— -- Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote a letter to the Department of Defense requesting that it comply with a rule that requires military service members to wear clothes made in the U.S.

"If it's taxpayer dollars, it should help American workers and American businesses, pure and simple," Brown told ABC News.

In the letter dated Oct. 17 and addressed to Frank Kendall, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Brown asked why some Air Force service members deployed to Afghanistan were twice issued Chinese-made boots and were only able to receive a pair of American-made boots after the Air Force Times reported the story.

A spokesman for Kendall told ABC News: "Our policy has been and will continue to be to purchase combat boots and other articles of military clothing that are made in the U.S."

Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has required the Department of Defense to give preference to clothing and other items made in the U.S.

An Air Force spokeswoman told the newspaper that the Berry Amendment did not apply for purchases under $150,000.

In his letter, Sen. Brown questioned the law's language that allows for waivers and asked if the Defense Department violated its policies.

"Our service members should not be given equipment manufactured in other countries when domestic options exist," Brown wrote. "Our men and women in uniform are fighting for their country, and deserve to fight in quality uniforms and boots that are made in the U.S.A."

Earlier this month, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, also drafted a letter to Kendall about the Berry Amendment.

"There's no justifiable explanation for issuing foreign-made uniforms when there are American manufacturers who can make high quality items for everyday military use," Hunter told ABC News. "Our military not only defends American interests but it represents American interests and it's definitely in the national interest to have a military that directly supports domestic manufacturers."

About 40 bipartisan lawmakers are in the process of signing the letter and plan to send it to Kendall soon.

"We should not rely on other countries, particularly those who may have competing global interests, to supply our forces with basic items," Hunter and Michaud wrote. "This is especially true when there are millions of Americans looking for work."

Brown said it is not clear if the Defense Department would be paying more or less for products in the U.S., but public support is in favor of using U.S. products, especially for groups representing the country.

He pointed to the outcry over U.S. Olympic team members wearing uniforms made in China. In July, a "World News" report revealed outfits for the opening ceremony were not made in the U.S. Lawmakers wrote letters to the U.S. Olympic Committee asking that future uniforms be made in America.

"American flags that fly over post offices should be 100 percent American-made," Brown said. "Any kind of military uniforms should be made in this country."