Sneaker makers want Pentagon to buy American

By: Austin Wright – reposted from Politico
September 30, 2013 05:06 AM EDT

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Domestic shoemakers are going toe to toe with the Pentagon over its footwear policies.

New Balance is leading a charge to force the military to buy U.S.-made running shoes for recruits, meeting with members of Congress and the Obama administration to press its case.

The company sees a $50 million opportunity in a population for which running is mandatory — and a cause that might be difficult for any flag-waving politician to oppose.

The military sees a regulatory headache.

The issue is significant for the Pentagon, which today allows the services to decide for themselves how best to buy running shoes. But a provision making its way through Congress could lead to a militarywide shoe policy — and another example of the transfer of power from the services to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which has expanded in recent years despite pledges to downsize by leaders past and present.

“We tend to grow by congressional fiat,” said one Pentagon official, requesting not to be identified to offer a candid take.

The standoff with shoemakers is also significant for the Defense Department because of the industry’s aggressive public relations push. Defense officials are accustomed to dealing with often deferential contractors, which depend on the Pentagon for a substantial portion of their sales and rarely disagree with the brass in public.

With New Balance, however, the shoe is on the other foot.

“We have not been quiet about our desire to see the department follow its own rules,” said company spokesman Matt LeBretton, referring to a 1941 statute called the Berry Amendment that requires the Pentagon to buy food, clothing and other items from producers inside the United States.

“Soldiers don’t have a choice for most of the gear that they’re given, so I don’t know why it would be different for athletic footwear,” LeBretton said. “The administration talks a lot about supporting domestic manufacturing — here’s an opportunity to do it.”

Each of the services has a different policy for equipping recruits with running shoes as they enter boot camp. The Army, for example, provides soldiers a one-time cash allowance to buy shoes from military exchanges, which stock a number of brands.

Men are given $75 for shoes and white socks, and women are given $347 for shoes, socks, black dress pumps, stockings, underwear and a black purse. The brass says it’s easier to handle this kind of purchase this way.

“For the Army to maintain those items in inventory, it would have to be quite a large inventory,” said Army spokesman Wayne Hall.

The Air Force, meanwhile, gives recruits $75 to purchase athletic shoes, also at military exchanges, following foot exams to determine the right brand and fit. The service spends about $2.3 million on the program each year, according to Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley.

Domestic shoemakers — and their allies on Capitol Hill — consider these policies a violation of the Berry Amendment because recruits are allowed to pick brands such as Nike, which produces most of its shoes outside the U.S.

Their message: Follow the lead of the Navy, which provides recruits only one brand option: New Balance.

The company was selected in part because its shoes “are assembled in the U.S.,” said Kristine Sturkie, a spokeswoman for the Navy Exchange Service Command. The service spent about $3 million last fiscal year to equip about 41,490 recruits with New Balance running shoes, she said.

A provision in the House version of this year’s defense authorization bill would force all the services to adopt a policy similar to the Navy’s — requiring military recruits to be equipped with U.S.-made shoes as they enter boot camp. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate before the end of the year.

The measure, championed by Democratic Reps. Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts and Michael Michaud of Maine, would take effect only once the Pentagon certifies there are two suppliers capable of producing shoes compliant with the requirements of the Berry Amendment.

“Innovative companies, such as New Balance right here in Massachusetts, are able to provide our service members with quality products and keep business here on American soil,” Tsongas said in a statement. “It is time for the Department of Defense to treat athletic footwear like every other uniform item, including boots, and buy them from American manufacturers.”

LeBretton said New Balance doesn’t produce Berry-compliant shoes today; it uses some foreign-made materials. But he said New Balance and at least one other company could produce shoes made from start to finish in the United States — if there was a military-scale demand for them.

“The ‘Field of Dreams’ analogy applies,” he said. “If you build it, they will come.”

And Steve Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said his group has been lobbying hard to get the Tsongas provision included in the final version of this year’s defense authorization bill.

“We’ve been talking to folks in both the House and the Senate to urge them to include this in the final package,” Lamar said. “It’s important, and obviously for the firms involved it’s a huge economic impact.”

To learn more about Made in USA Certification: www.USA-C.com

Made in USA Certified

Town hall meeting to address “Keep it Made in America”

By 

Rebuilding the manufacturing base and creating jobs in western New York is the focus of a town hall meeting being held in downtown Buffalo Monday night.

It’s called the ‘Keep it Made in America’ Town Hall. And it’s being hosted by the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the United Steelworkers.

The union’s District 4 Director John Shinn says the goal is to help business leaders, organized labor, elected officials, educators and citizens understand the role manufacturing can play in reinvigorating the economy.

“Citizens of the state, when they have these manufacturing jobs, they spend money. It helps the secondary businesses. One dollar paid to a worker in New York state in the manufacturing sector would role over to the area businesses three, four times.”

Shinn says governments can help by enacting policies that guarantee taxpayer funded projects use goods made in the USA. And he says the academic community can help by educating students with the necessary skills to fill jobs.
“There’s a demand for skilled labor positions within manufacturing and also semi-skilled labor positions…We have employers that can’t hire instrument technicians, electricians, welders, pipe fitters…these are good living-wage jobs.”

The meeting includes panel discussions, video presentations and opportunities for audience participation.  It gets underway Monday in Asbury Hall on Delaware Avenue at 6 p.m.

 

 

Source:http://news.wbfo.org/post/town-hall-meeting-address-keep-it-made-america

US Swipes at China for Hacking Allegations

chinese

The U.S. has taken its first real swipe at China following accusations that the Beijing government is behind a widespread and systemic hacking campaign targeting U.S. businesses.

Buried in a spending bill signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday is a provision that effectively bars much of the federal government from buying information technology made by companies linked to the Chinese government.

It’s unclear what impact the legislation will have, or whether it will turn out to be a symbolic gesture. The provision only affects certain non-defense government agency budgets between now and Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. It also allows for exceptions if an agency head determines that buying the technology is “in the national interest of the United States.”

Still, the rule could upset U.S. allies whose businesses rely on Chinese manufacturers for parts and pave the way for broader, more permanent changes in how the U.S. government buys technology.

“This is a change of direction,” said Stuart Baker, a former senior official at the Homeland Security Department now with the legal firm Steptoe and Johnson in Washington. “My guess is we’re going to keep going in this direction for a while.”

In March, the U.S. computer security firm Mandiant released details on what it said was an aggressive hacking campaign on American businesses by a Chinese military unit. Since then, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has used high-level meetings with Beijing officials to press the matter. Beijing has denied the allegations.

Congressional leaders have promised to push comprehensive legislation that would make it easier for industry to share threat data with the government. But those efforts have been bogged down amid concerns that too much of U.S. citizens’ private information could end up in the hands of the federal government.

As Congress and privacy advocates debate a way ahead, lawmakers tucked “section 516” into the latest budget resolution, which enables the government to pay for day-to day operations for the rest of the fiscal year. The provision specifically prohibits the Commerce and Justice departments, NASA and the National Science Foundation from buying an information technology system that is “produced, manufactured or assembled” by any entity that is “owned, operated or subsidized” by the People’s Republic of China.

The agencies can only acquire the technology if, in consulting with the FBI, they determine that there is no risk of “cyberespionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of the system,” according to the legislation.

The move might sound like a no-brainer. If U.S. industry and intelligence officials are right, and China is stealing America’s corporate secrets at a breathtaking pace, why reward Beijing with lucrative U.S. contracts? Furthermore, why install technical equipment that could potentially give China a secret backdoor into federal systems?

But a blanket prohibition on technology made by the Chinese government may be easier said than done. Information systems are often a complicated assembly of parts manufactured by different companies around the globe. And investigating where each part came from, and if that part is made by a company that could have ties to the Chinese government could be difficult.

Depending on how the Obama administration interprets the law, Baker said it could cause problems for the U.S. with the World Trade Organization, whose members include U.S. allies like Germany and Britain that might rely on Chinese technology to build computers or handsets.

But in the end, Baker says it could make the U.S. government safer and wiser.

“We do have to worry about buying equipment from companies that may not have our best interests at heart,” he said.

———

Follow Anne Flaherty on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AnneKFlaherty.

Also Read

 

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/us-swipes-china-hacking-allegations-193407762.html

Europeans want U.S. to Ditch “Buy American” Rules

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Obama keeps pushing a Trans Atlantic trade deal with Europe, despite the fact that other trade deals have helped make the trade deficit worse.

One of the goals for Europeans is to get rid of Buy American rules in the U.S.

In particular, the [European Union] wants to pry open so-called public procurement markets and scrap “Buy American” clauses that restrict the ability of European companies to sell goods and services to states and cities.

The U.S. public strongly believes their taxpayer dollars should be spent procuring from U.S. companies and workers.  A majority in Congress votes for Buy American rules in infrastructure and other bills.  Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) have been leading the efforts recently.  How can a fiscal stimulus have an impact if we buy foreign goods with taxpayer money?  That’s one difference between the FDR stimulus of the Great Depression and the smaller Obama stimulus of the Great Recession… offshore leakage of the government spending.

It’s not surprising that Europe wants to replace U.S. businesses and workers in government contracts.  The U.S. federal government is the biggest consumer in the world… and when you add in the state and local governments, it’s really big.  From the U.S. side there is simply no way we’d come away with a net benefit with theoretical market access by our so-called “U.S.” multinationals (who don’t really consider themselves U.S. anymore) to other smaller government procurement markets.  It simply doesn’t ever work that way.

I’m not sure where the Obama Administration is coming from on this.  The biggest source of jobs and growth will come from reducing the trade deficit.  We had a record $735B goods trade deficit last year, including a $300B goods deficit with China.  Trade deals simply don’t help the trade deficit, usually make things worse, and tie our hands for fixing the problem.

 

Source: http://www.tradereform.org/2013/03/europeans-want-u-s-to-ditch-buy-american-rules/

Obama Push on Advanced Manufacturing Stirs Economic Debate

In a White House switch, pro-manufacturing advisers have the ear of the president.

Jobs plan: President Obama addressing manufacturing workers in 2012.

Before a packed arena at the national convention of the Democratic Party in September, Barack Obama outlined a vision for America’s economic recovery with manufacturing as its engine.

“After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two-and-a-half years,” Obama told the cheering crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years.”

To fulfill those promises, the White House is turning to an economic tool not seen in Washington for years: industrial policy.

Emboldened by a new cadre of advisors, the Obama administration has proposed policies to boost domestic manufacturing involving tax breaks, new R&D spending, and vocational training of two million workers including around advanced technologies like batteries, computing, aerospace, and robotics.

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Chinese bid for A123 may raise security risks: Senators

A123

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Chinese company’s attempt to take over government-backed battery maker A123 raises serious national security concerns, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said this week, adding to growing congressional opposition to the deal.

China’s Wanxiang Group Corp is currently competing with U.S.-based Johnson Controls Inc to buy bankrupt A123, which makes lithium ion batteries for electric cars.

The government must ensure that any sale of A123’s technology, which has also been used by the military and to support the U.S. electrical grid, does not threaten domestic security, the senators said in letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other top cabinet officials.

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EU Might Block Parts of Food Safety Modernization Law

BY DAN FLYNN Food Safety News

In implementing its new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the United States wants to boldly go where no government has gone before in protecting food imports, but the European Union (EU) doesn’t like it.

 Carlos Alvarez Antolinez, an EU food safety official stationed in Washington D.C., told the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Monday that the 27 member EU countries he represents has some significant issues with FSMA.
Third party auditing, inspections, and foreign supply verification procedures top the list of the EU’s concerns with the new U.S. law.  With governmental authority for a continent of 500 million people speaking 28 languages, the EU is also in a position to stop what it does not like.

“We have been very grateful to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Antolinez said. He said the EU has remained in constant dialogue with FDA since President Obama signed the new food safety law in January 2011, and seemed to suggest somewhat humorously that the U.S. and the EU might be more at impasse if the American government were further along in implementing the new law.
FDA has drafted the implementing regulations, but the White House’s Executive Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have held those up for months.
The EU is concerned that with the FSMA, the U.S. will be reaching out to individual companies in its member countries rather than maintaining a “government-to-government” approach for ensuring food safety, Antolinez says.

The Factory Factor: Why Outsourcing and ‘Made in America’ Could Decide this Election

Scott Paul

Executive Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

American manufacturing is like apple pie to American voters: we love it and want more of it regardless of our politics, race, gender, income, or hometown. If you live in a swing state like Ohio, you already know that, because both presidential candidates have flooded the airwaves with ads labeling the other guy as the “outsourcer-in-chief.”

Beneath the recent accusations and counter-accusations on outsourcing, there is a simple truth: citizens believe manufacturing is central to our nation’s economic health, that America is in economic decline, that outsourcing to China is largely responsible for this condition, and they want their elected leaders to do something bold about it.

Voters of all political stripes are far ahead of the debate inside Washington, D.C. More importantly, perhaps, is that nearly all Americans — not only working-class Ohioans — share this view.

So don’t be surprised if both campaigns escalate the rhetoric and attacks on shipping jobs overseas in the coming weeks, in part to mask their own shortcomings.

That’s because no one is a knight in shining Made in America armor when it comes to this issue. Mitt Romney (rightly) criticizes President Obama for not labeling China as a currency manipulator, but glosses over the fact that Republican leaders in Congress are blocking a bipartisan currency bill that would pass overwhelmingly. Romney has also been on the wrong side of Administration decisions to defend American tire workers against China’s cheating and successfully rescue Chrysler and General Motors.

The GOP hypocritically accuses Obama of sending stimulus dollars overseas, while Republican Senators tried to block Buy America requirements for stimulus spending.

The fact is, accusing your political opponent of shipping jobs overseas is now an established American campaign tradition. What is missing is an honest debate about what could actually be done to promote American manufacturing jobs. Voters are ready for such a dialogue.

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‘Insourcing’ bill fails to advance in the Senate

 

(Karen Bleier – AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate failed to advance a bill Thursday that would end tax breaks for large companies that relocate jobs overseas and provide tax credits to firms that bring jobs back to the United States.

Senators voted 56 to 42 to proceed to final consideration of the Bring Jobs Home Act, falling short of the 60 votes necessary in order to proceed. The White House expressed strong support for the measure, which is packed with proposals from Senate Democrats facing reelection and eager to demonstrate efforts to shore up the nation’s struggling manufacturing sector.

The bill would eliminate tax deductions that companies may take when moving workers and equipment overseas, but establish a new 20 percent tax deduction for companies that do the reverse.

Republicans objected to the bill in part because Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blocked GOP amendments to the bill, including a proposal to repeal the 2010 health-care reform act. Senate Republicans this month also attempted to amend a small business tax cut bill with language repealing the health law. Some GOP senators also complained that Democrats bypassed the normal committee process and quickly introduced the bill for election-year political purposes.

Democrats note that roughly 2.4 million American jobs have been transferred overseas in the last decade as global firms outsource more positions to cheaper markets.

Source: Washington Post

See how your Senator voted on the Bring Home Jobs Act:  Senate Roll Call

 

“What’s Geithner Thinking?” Treasury Grants China Direct Access to Buy U.S. Bonds

In an unprecedented move, in June 2011 the U.S. Treasury Department granted the Chinese government direct-bidder status to purchase U.S. Treasuries direct from the U.S. government,reports Reuters. All other central banks must purchase U.S. Treasuries through primary dealers on Wall Street, which then place bids on their behalf at Treasury auctions.

The People’s Bank of China holds roughly $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt, more than any other entity, and it is now the first foreign government with direct computer access to the U.S. government Treasury auction process. China, however, must sell U.S. Treasuries on the open market.

“It’s a big deal because the Chinese are getting very special treatment,” says Gordon Chang, Forbes columnist and author of the Coming Collapse of China, in an email to The Daily Ticker.

This special treatment does have the potential to save the Chinese government money, but not in transaction and commission costs because primary dealers are prohibited from charging its bidding customers fees. However, China could getting a better deal by keeping its purchases from Wall Street secret.

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