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Understanding and working with the Berry Amendment

Markets | December 6, 2012 | By:

Highlights from the educational sessions at IFAI Expo 2012 in Boston.

Defense procurement for the U.S. military is budgeted at $17.2 billion per year, 10 percent of which is allotted to clothing, textiles and subsistence. Navigating the organization of the system can be extremely complicated, said IFAI Expo speaker Jeffrey Grover, senior procurement analyst, and the combination of a centralized, uniform procurement system but decentralized procurement offices only adds to its complexity. The Berry Amendment, requiring sourcing U.S.-made products when possible, was passed in 1941 and made permanent in 1994; but there are at present quite a number of exemptions to the requirements. Grover discussed the differences between the Berry Amendment and the Buy American Act (passed in 1933), noting that the Berry Amendment requires that products be 100 percent manufactured in the U.S. and is much stricter on the question of “What is an American company?”

Lloyd Wood, vice president of public relations with the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC), stressed that Congress reviews the government procurement policy, usually annually, and with an incoming crop of freshman legislators, knowledge and support of the issue can’t be taken for granted. He added that in FY 2012, Berry Amendment purchases can create 20,000 U.S. jobs-and that these contracts also supply other nongovernment contracts, causing a ripple effect on other businesses as well. Earlier this year, the Berry Amendment was updated to require that nontextile shelter components now must be Berry-compliant as well, the result of a joint effort between the U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI), a division of IFAI, and AMTAC. USIFI has also joined the Berry Amendment Coalition of textile organizations in supporting the Wear American Act of 2012.

The vital importance of the Berry Amendment in terms of national security and job creation was discussed by Dan Pezold, president of Brand & Oppenheimer Co. Inc., Red Bank, N.J. The rules are generally fiber-forward, meaning that companies all along the textile supply chain can benefit-as long as they are all aware of the compliance requirements. Compliance is self-monitoring and self-reporting, flowing down from the prime contractor, according to Pezold, meaning that manufacturers all along the supply chain should have a series of manufacturer’s affidavits of origin ready for customers.

Moderator Ron Houle, USIFI board chairman and vice president of government relations at DHS Systems in Orangeburg, N.Y., finished the session with a request for questions from the audience. The panel was asked how it is determined if there is no U.S. source of a product: the agency uses FedBizOpps to do a general query to find domestic sources, and also talks to contractors and suppliers. Another request noted that textiles are increasingly being used in composite materials-are these then considered textile items? That, according to the panel, is still under discussion.

Galynn Nordstrom is senior editor of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine.

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