The US Congress yesterday (22 December) approved provisions in the 2006 Defense Authorization conference report that will improve opportunities for US manufacturers that supply apparel and footwear to the United States armed forces.
 
Early on Monday morning the House of Representatives approved changes to the Berry Amendment "Buy American" rules for Department of Defense (DOD) textile procurement. 

And late Thursday the Senate passed the conference report, which will bring more transparency to DOD's procurement process for domestic companies seeking government contracts.

The Berry Amendment requires the military to buy all of its sewn products from US companies that manufacture in the US with all US components, but waivers are frequently issued on the basis that certain products are not available from US companies.

The new provision allows suppliers the opportunity to respond to such waivers if they have the capacity to provide the item. The conference report also ensures that components associated with clothing, such as leather, are covered under the Berry Amendment.

The Department of Defense is now required to notify both the Congress and US industry when it decides to buy textile and apparel goods from foreign sources.

A provision to authorise additional training programmes for DOD procurement personnel on the Berry Amendment was also included in the final bill.  This will help avoid inadvertent omission of the domestic purchasing requirement in contracts for procurement of textiles and apparel. 
 
"It is only right that American companies provide the clothing worn by American service men and women who so courageously defend our nation," said Kevin M Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA).

Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), added: "Previously, there was no way for domestic manufacturers to find out when products were being sourced from a foreign supplier until it was too late. The new notification requirement will ensure this does not happen in the future.

"This is a big victory for US textile and apparel manufacturers."

In 2005, the DoD will purchase more than 8,000 textile and apparel items ranging from uniforms, footwear, and t-shirts to flags and tents. DoD projects its purchases of textiles and apparel to total more than $2.5bn.