The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a requirement that the Department of Defense provide military recruits with American-made shoes, a provision long sought by footwear manufacturer New Balance, which employs 900 in Maine.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation – Republican Sen. Susan Collins, independent Sen. Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District – had championed the change and announced its presence in the authorization act Wednesday. The provision could lead to a military contract for New Balance, which operates Maine manufacturing plants in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway.

The provision is expected to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in the next few days, and implemented over the next two years.

Collins, King and Poliquin trumpeted the rule change as a win for American jobs and U.S. manufacturing.

In a written statement, CEO Rob DeMartini said New Balance is “the only major company that still makes athletic footwear in the United States.” He thanked the lawmakers for their efforts “on behalf of the hundreds of men and women in our five New England shoe factories.”

“We are grateful that the U.S. House and Senate has again agreed that our military’s domestic purchasing requirements as stated by law need to be followed,” DeMartini said.


The three lawmakers say the change essentially subjects footwear to the Berry Amendment, the 1941 legislation that requires the Department of Defense to give preference to American products.

The provision included in the final 2017 National Defense Authorization Act is similar to the Buy American Act introduced by Collins and King and the Stepping up for American Workers and Troops Act introduced by Poliquin, according to a news release. Both of those bills were introduced this year.

Previous language in the act allowed the Department of Defense to bypass the Berry Amendment. The department has said that no U.S.-made athletic shoes complied with Berry’s requirements, one of which is that all elements used in making the shoe are U.S. products.

In 2014, the Department of Defense promised to start providing recruits with U.S.-made athletic shoes if the shoes complied with the requirements, and in 2015 New Balance said it had developed a shoe that did comply.

This year, the Armed Services committees in the House and Senate approved changing the act to force the Department of Defense to comply with the Berry Amendment. Around the same time, Collins took the opportunity during a Department of Defense budget review to tell Defense Secretary Ashton Carter she was disappointed in the department’s continuing refusal to comply with the Berry Amendment.

In Wednesday’s news release, the Maine lawmakers said they will “relentlessly push the Department of Defense to fully implement this already overdue provision.”

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