POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Made in the USA by David Trumbull -- February 18, 2022
In the summer of 1941, as World War II was devastating Europe and Asia, America watched, and hoped -- hoped that it would not be a repeat of World War I, where we were pulled into a foreign war. Hoping is one thing, planning is another. We could not have anticipated that by December we would be forced into the global conflict, but wise heads in Washington did see that it was a question of when, not if, young American men (practically still boys) would be called upon to defend Democracy and risk life and limb in a foreign conflict we neither initiated nor sought. Recognizing the looming threat, the U.S. took a sober look at what we would need to fight the war when it came to us. The conclusion was that we needed a reliable domestic source of steel, and textiles. Congress passed an act to require domestic U.S. sourcing of uniforms. Since then, requirement for domestic sourcing of textiles for the Department of Defense has been renewed several times and, finally, made a permanent part of U.S. law, known as the "Berry Amendment" for the member of congress who proposed it, in its current form, over 60 years ago.
We now are facing a crisis. Due to COVID-19-related workforce and supply limitations, we are, for the first time since 1941, facing a situation where young women and men entering our armed services cannot be provided with uniforms. Back in December, the newspaper Stars and Stripes, reported that the sole domestic source for certain fabric for Air Force uniforms is unable to satisfy the need. That much is public, but the shortage goes beyond that, far beyond, and while I can't reveal details, I can tell you that the U.S. currently could not clothe enough warfighters were we to be forced into a major conflict.
COVID-19 has precipitated this crisis, but it is not the root cause. For the past 30 years U.S. trade policy has incentivized brands and retailers to close U.S. textile facilities and relocate offshore, mostly to China. Leaving the few domestic producers of vital military textiles with few, if any, commercial customers. A law requiring U.S. textiles in tents and uniforms is of no value if there is no remaining U.S. textile industry to supply our armed services. And we certainly do not want to fall into a situation where we are dependent on a foreign nation -- a potential foe -- as the source of military clothing and tents.
You can help! If more Americans would buy U.S.-made clothing we could help support that industrial base that we need for national defense.
Here are a few sources for Made in U.S.A. products.
For quality hats, including hats made in the U.S.A., visit these fine vendors:
For computer cases, suitcases, and other travel goods go to https://toughtraveler.com/
For bags, other travel goods, and ball caps go to https://unionwear.com
For sneakers, pass by the Nike, probably made with slave labor in China, and go to https://www.newbalance.com/ who makes shoes in Massachusetts and Maine.
Final note, even companies that are committed to U.S. manufacturing will sometime mix imports into their catalogue, so be sure to check the country of origin of any article before making a purchase.