The Pentagon budgets about $15 million every year for athletic shoes vouchers, but not all of it goes to buy American-made footwear. New Balance hopes a 75-year-old law will force the Senate to change that.
[Bloomberg| June 6, 2016 |Industry Week]
New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. is close to winning an almost decade-long marathon: A buy-American provision in the massive defense policy bill the Senate will debate this week could force the Pentagon to purchase the company’s sneakers for new military recruits.
Currently, the Pentagon issues about $15 million in vouchers a year, covering 225,000 to 250,000 pairs of athletic shoes, New Balance estimates. If the provision survives in the final version of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill and recruits are required to wear American-made apparel, the vouchers could no longer be used for shoes made overseas by Nike Inc. and other companies.
Boston-based New Balance long has lobbied the government to follow the letter of a 1941 law that it perceives as requiring made-in-the-U.S.A. attire for soldiers. That means providing U.S.-made athletic footwear instead of giving recruits allowances to shop for the shoes they prefer. The Pentagon and the White House oppose the new provision, contending that costs could rise and new recruits could be injured if they are wearing shoes that don’t fit them well.
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