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Sen. Collins tours NB facility in Norway, urges DOD to buy only U.S.-made shoes
TOURING — U.S. Senator Susan Collins toured the New Balance manufacturing facility on Cottage Street in Norway last Wednesday.
NORWAY — Wearing her New Balance sneakers, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, paid a visit to the company's Cottage Street facility February 20, as part of her effort to urge the U.S. Department of Defense to buy U.S.-made footwear for incoming service members.
And while she was there, Collins purchased a new pair of sneakers for her husband.
According to a press release, Collins invited Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in a letter, to accompany her to NB to see its technology development first-hand.
"After visiting this facility, I am confident you will have an appreciation for the dedication of this U.S. work force and will develop confidence in the quality and cost-effectiveness of athletic shoes that are made in America," she stated.
Her letter also mentions her recent concern about DOD policies, including the Berry Amendment, which puts restrictions on purchases made by the DOD from non-U.S. sources.
Collins is urging the DOD to consider the procurement of domestically-manufactured footwear, like NB products, according to her release.
Last August, Collins pointed out, Kendall stated that U.S. companies could not provide domestically-manufactured footwear to troops without an exception to the Berry Amendment, due to the scarcity of domestically-made footwear materials.
However, Collins reported that NB recently added a domestically-produced mid-sole to its line of products, to remedy this shortfall.
According to her letter, the Army stopped issuing athletic shoes to new recruits 11 years ago, and instead provided a cash allowance for their purchase.
In 2008, the Air Force had a similar change in its policy, Collins wrote, and eventually, the Navy followed suit. Currently, according to Collins, all three branches of service provide incoming members with a cash voucher to purchase athletic footwear.
However, no branch gives preference for U.S.-made footwear, she explained in the letter.
Cash allowances the military provides is valued at $15 million annually. According to Collins, this is 100 times the minimum acquisition threshold of $150,000, above which goods must comply under the Berry Amendment, she wrote.
In addition, since October 2012, the Defense Logistics Agency has awarded more than $36 million to domestic footwear companies, including Altama Footwear and Wolverine, for combat boots and athletic shoes for troops, Collins stated.
"If the Department of Defense would align its athletic footwear procurement policies to match the policies already in place for combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform items, it would have the dual benefit of also contributing to the explicit objectives set forth in the President's agenda for his second term," she wrote.
Collins told Kendall in her letter that she shares a priority with President Obama for making America "a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing," identifying companies such as Caterpillar and Ford.
Apple products, including Mac computers, will soon be manufactured in the U.S., Collins said, crediting Obama's State of the Union address.
"When the President gives his State of the Union address next year, domestic footwear manufacturers should be on the list of companies that he cites for creating new American manufacturing jobs," Collins wrote to Kendall.
"One way we can make that possible without increasing the federal deficit a single dime is to make sure that the athletic footwear purchased every year by entry-level military recruits is manufactured by U.S. companies," she said.
Collins toured the NB facility, meeting with workers on the production floor, moments before visiting the Paris Fire Station, where she honored Paris Fire Chief Brad Frost and Advertiser Democrat Editor A.M. Sheehan for their efforts uncovering unsafe living conditions in local federally-subsidized housing.