A two-and-a-half-year industry push in Washington D.C. ends in success for U.S. military tent suppliers.
By Ruth Stephens and JoAnne Ferris
At a time when President Obama and his administration are on a new mission to repatriate American manufacturing jobs, the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI) recently scored a small victory for the textile industry
Two-and-a-half years ago, a surprise reinterpretation of the Berry Amendment was announced by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), saying that military tents could be constructed with components made offshore. Congress originally passed domestic source restrictions as part of the 1941 Fifth Supplemental DoD Appropriations Act in order to guarantee a domestic source for products needed during war. In 2009, at the request of its membership (the U.S. military tent supply chain), USIFI sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explaining the industry’s understanding of Berry compliance and requesting written clarification of the new DLA interpretation.
An August 2009 response from Nancy Heimbaugh, director, Strategic Acquisition, DLA, reiterated DLA’s position that only the fabric used in tents is subject to the Berry Amendment’s domestic purchasing restriction; since tent components were not mentioned. Ms. Heimbaugh’s letter cited as example a phrase in the Berry Amendment statute that refers specifically to components of clothing items.Because of similar issues of noncompliant clothing components such as buttons and embroidered emblems being used in military apparel, the apparel industry initiated the 2006 change to the Berry Amendment.
USIFI collective action
USIFI polled the military tent-supply chain, including member and nonmember companies and textile and nontextile component producers, to determine if broad support existed for changing the statute’s language to include tent components. There was no dissention. USIFI member company Easton Technical Products stepped forward to lead the effort with help from Outdoor Venture Corporation, Camel Manufacturing, DHS Systems and Johnson Outdoors—some of the largest domestic military tent manufacturers.
A concerted effort was made to write language into the FY2011 Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act that included domestic tent components as part of any contracts let by the DoD. Working through the office of Congressman Rob Bishop (UT, 1st), DLA leadership was informed of the inconsistency and the industry’s interest in fixing the error.
USIFI, with the assistance of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), worked with Rep. Bishop to craft legislative language to correct DLA’s mistaken interpretation. Rep. Bishop, following the counsel of the staff of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), proposed that materials and components be covered by the Berry Amendment, but the HASC staff did not feel, at that time, that an attempt to amend the existing statutory language was warranted. The legislation passed in the waning hours of the 111th Session of Congress (the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011) was stripped of much of the language in the earlier draft.
Continuing its efforts, USIFI, with the help of the broad coalition of industry members and Rep. Bishop’s office, attempted a statutory fix in the 112th Congress. USIFI proposed language to be inserted into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, permanently amending the Berry statute so that tent components would be required to be produced in the U.S. The language was included in the Defense bill approved by the House, but was not included in the Senate bill
A joint House and Senate committee produced the final document, which passed and was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 31, 2011. The final bill, H.R. 1540 (the $662 billion 2012 National Defense Authorization Act) included the USIFI language requiring domestic production of all tent components.
It’s important to note that this change is not an expansion of the Berry Amendment beyond its original scope, but rather a clarification of the original intent of the law. USIFI engaged its entire membership as well as the military shelter value chain in this effort, demonstrating the value of collective action.
USIFI will continue to monitor military procurement, particularly Berry compliance, with 2012-2013 efforts focused on study of the recent change in the Berry threshold (the contract amount that triggers the domestic sourcing requirement) from $100,000 to $150,000; and tactics employed by the Defense Logistics Agency to circumvent Berry regulations.
USIFI is a division of the Industrial Fabrics Association International. Its mission is to build a coalition of U.S.-based specialty fabrics manufacturers and users dedicated to serving member interests in the domestic and international marketplaces.