October 3, 2017
The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), an alliance of groups representing firms from the Canadian, Mexican and US textile sectors, has urged the US Government to plug the loopholes in the implementation of the Berry Amendment in military clothing, textile and footwear procurement and stop the patronage offered to Federal Prison Industries (FPI).
The Berry Amendment of 1941 mandates that all textile, clothing, and footwear products purchased by the US military must be made in the United States from US materials. It is stricter than most other ‘Buy American’ requirements as it warrants, with few exceptions, that product inputs be also sourced within the United States. A strict waiver process exists for goods that cannot be sourced domestically.
Though thousands of US textile, apparel, and footwear manufacturing jobs depend on the Berry Amendment’s continued operation, ‘loopholes’ built into the Berry Amendment undermine the very protection it is meant to provide, AAFA executive vice president Steve Lamar wrote to the department of commerce in a letter.
As contracts at values under the simplified acquisition threshold are not subject to Berry requirements, many smaller contracts, especially at the military base or unit level, are awarded to foreign firms without bothering about the existence of domestic manufacturers that can handle the work, the AAFA letter said.
As many reports from the Inspector General and the General Accounting Office in recent years have identified enforcement concerns regarding the Berry Amendment, a stronger oversight could ensure better compliance to favour US manufacturing jobs, according to AAFA.
The recent trend of awarding contracts on price rather than best value have created ‘long-term obstacles’ for an industry dependent on the Berry Amendment and has eroded the economic health of the warm industrial base, observed AAFA.
The strongest note of concern is raised about the ‘unfair competition’ from the FPI, which conducts business under the name UNICOR. As FPI is permitted to compete as a small business, an entity that is many times larger than the largest US military uniform contractor can take contracts reserved for small and disadvantaged businesses.
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