New Balance could get another crack at making shoes for the U.S. military after federal lawmakers decided to include an American-made requirement in the final version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
“New Balance is proud to be the only major company that still makes athletic footwear in the United States,” New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini said in a Wednesday news release. “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.”
The news of a potential U.S. military contract for New Balance comes on the heels of a social media controversy that embroiled the Massachusetts-based sneaker manufacturer, which employs about 900 Mainers at facilities in Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Norway, after a company official welcomed President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on trade and criticized that of President Barack Obama’s administration.
The company’s dispute with the Obama administration sparked after the company said it faced persistent hurdles as it pushed for a chance at the military contract earlier this year, only to fall short.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, along with U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, on Wednesday announced the provision made it into the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that authorizes U.S. military expenditures, in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The addition effectively solidifies athletic shoes’ inclusion under the 1941 Berry amendment, which requires the U.S. military to provide personnel with American-made equipment and uniforms to the greatest extent possible. Prior language allowed the military to exclude athletic footwear by arguing that no companies met the requirements, but New Balance countered that it did meet them.
Currently, military recruits get a monetary allowance to purchase any one of 14 approved sneakers, regardless of where they’re made.
“With the successful inclusion of this provision, Congress and the Pentagon will finally prioritize and reward U.S. companies for creating and maintaining good-paying jobs here in the U.S. and will equip American troops with high-quality American-made athletic footwear,” the lawmakers said. “We will relentlessly push the Department of Defense to fully implement this already-overdue provision.”
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