Federal law requires the U.S. military to outfit its personnel with American-made products. So why are so many of our soldiers running around in foreign-made sneakers?

Because, it appears, a bureaucrat at the Department of Defense decided that the law doesn’t apply to athletic shoes.

Members of the U.S. Congress, as it happens, consider it their job to make and unmake laws in this country, and some of them are not thrilled that a Pentagon desk jockey seems to have taken it upon himself to change a rule that Congress adopted in 1941.

Among the members who are troubled by this development are Maine’s very own Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who last year fired off a letter to the Defense Department’s director of procurement and acquisition policy.

The letter, cosigned by both of Massachusetts’ senators, asked the director to explain the policy exempting sneakers from the law known as the Berry Amendment, which requires the government to purchase American-made uniforms, boots, etc., for members of the military.

Snowe and Collins, along with the rest of the country, are still waiting for the explanation.

This matter is of particular interest to elected officials in Maine and Massachusetts because the only company that manufactures athletic shoes in America, New Balance, is based in Boston and operates three plants in Maine.

We’re not talking about a mere surge of patriotic fervor here; this is an important economic issue for our state and the nation. New Balance officials say the company is ready, willing and able to supply the military with high-quality shoes and they wonder why the Pentagon is not complying with the 70-year-old law that mandates the purchase of American gear.

The Defense Department has promised to issue a report explaining its policy by June 1. Report or no report, there is no acceptable explanation for the department’s failure to follow the law.

If Pentagon bureaucrats won’t do what the law requires them to do, then Congress should step in and force them to do it. We’re not talking about a mere surge of patriotic fervor here; this is an important economic issue for our state and the nation.