PORTLAND — U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine have written a letter signed by 13 other senators asking that the Department of Defense be required to buy only American-made athletic footwear for military personnel.
The April 19 letter asks President Barack Obama to direct the department to follow a 1941 law requiring the military to buy American-made products for soldiers whenever possible.
As a rule, the Defense Department purchases shoes and clothing that are made in America, the senators said. The department used to treat athletic footwear the same way, but in recent years it's been giving military personnel a cash allowance to buy their own footwear.
Collins and King said the military's policy has placed jobs in jeopardy in states such as Maine and Massachusetts, where Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. has offices and plants. New Balance is the last major American athletic footwear manufacturer.
"We can increase American footwear manufacturing jobs at no cost to the federal government simply by your directing the Department of Defense to align its athletic footwear procurement policies to those it has already adopted for other footwear, such as combat boots, service shoes, and other uniform items," the letter said.
U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine has been calling for the military to buy U.S.-made athletic footwear for a couple of years.
To drive home his point, he gave the president a pair of custom-made New Balance sneakers with "President Obama" sewn on the heels during a visit to Maine last year.