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Friday September 16, 2011 | 02:19 PM

Rep. Mike Michaud today formally introduced a bill that “clarifies” that a federal law requiring the military outfit soldiers with American-made apparel includes athletic footwear.

But he also wrote a letter to President Obama saying that legislation shouldn’t be needed.

Michaud, D-2nd, along with GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, have been campaigning for some time for the Department of Defense to mandate military branches buy American-made athletic shoes for recruits.

Massachusetts-based New Balance has three plants in Maine – Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway – and two in Massachusetts and its U.S. factories manufacture 25 percent of New Balance shoes. New Balance has said it can produce “Berry amendment” compliant shoes, and made 5,000 pairs recently to show that capacity, a reference to the name for the World War II era law that mandates American-made goods for U.S. soldiers.

Currently most branches of the military give vouchers to recruits to pick the athletic shoes of their choice, while the Marines don’t pay for shoes. The Defense Department has said that individual soldiers have different athletic shoes needs, and it would be difficult to outfit them all with the same shoe.

New Balance, the only company making athletic shoes in the United States, has said it is not looking for a guaranteed contract, and would find other domestic shoemakers willing to bid on the chance to make athletic shoes for the military.

In his letter to Obama, Michaud wrote, “I write to urge you to instruct the Secretary of Defense to issue American-made athletic footwear to our enlisted soldiers, something they should already be doing.”

While he is introducing legislation, “frankly, this situation does not have to be fixed legislatively,” Michaud wrote. “It can be fixed administratively.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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