By Rick Maze, Military Times
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Defense Department to stop buying foreign-made uniforms for U.S. troops.
DoD is required to purchase clothing and shoes that are 100 percent made in the U.S., although there are limited waivers to that requirement.
Foreign-made clothing is still ending up in the hands of troops, however, because military buyers don't follow the rules and because troops are buying some items with clothing allowances rather than receiving government-issued items.
This has been a sore point for lawmakers representing garment- and shoe-producing congressional districts because budget-conscious troops are free to purchase less expensive items as long as they meet military standards.
The two lawmakers leading the fight are Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.
"Our forces should be outfitted from head to toe in American-made uniforms, period," Michaud said in a statement. "At a time when we need to create jobs and boost manufacturing, the last thing we should be doing is outsourcing military uniforms."
Hunter said having U.S.-made clothing and equipment "should be a nonnegotiable part of our efforts to guarantee our forces are providing the highest quality and most effective resources."
Michaud enlisted the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans' group, in his cause at an Oct. 3 hearing. "Our soldiers put their lives on the line for us. They should fight in uniforms that they can trust: uniforms made in the USA," Michaud said.
"The American Legion and the American people believe that all equipment should be made in the United States of America," responded James Koutz, the Legion's national commander.
In the letter to Frank Kendall, DoD's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, lawmakers said the Pentagon "has started circumventing this policy by issuing cash allowances for soldiers to purchase their own training shoes."
In addition, a recent news report highlighted an Air Force master sergeant who was twice issued boots made in China, the letter said. "When he asked how he could exchange them for American-made boots, he was told 'good luck.' "