Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Army Awards Beret Contract to Domestic Businesses

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Army Awards Beret Contract to Domestic Businesses

Article excerpt

In the U.S. military, berets are worn with honor by those who serve to protect our freedom and our rights as Americans. In the world of small business, berets have taken on a whole new meaning, thanks to the watchdog efforts of Congress and leaders such as Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill., and Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

If you're not up on the beret issue, let me provide you with a little background.

Last year, the U.S. Army made the decision to give its forces a new look to signify a more modern and effective Army. As a result, the Army's standard green cap would be replaced with a beret. So far, no big deal. Until the Defense Logistics Agency, the purchasing arm of the Army, decided to solicit the work from mainly overseas manufacturers. Keep in mind that this action required the Army to waive the Berry Amendment, which requires the Pentagon to award clothing contracts for the Armed Services to domestic suppliers. Following the Army's waiver, the contract was awarded to a British company with a production plant in mainland China. And, additional contracts had been awarded to companies in Romania, South Africa and India but have since been canceled.

In the past, most waivers such as the one the Army used to bypass American firms, have been issued for component parts that are not available through domestic sources. This was the first, and hopefully last, waiver for a finished good such as berets.

There was a major uproar on Capitol Hill. More than 80 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including House Small Business Committee Chairman Manzullo, wrote a letter to President Bush protesting the waiver. On the Senate side, Bond led the charge on behalf of small businesses in our country.

Well, their efforts paid off. It was announced earlier this month that the Defense Logistics Agency will now seek two new contracts to produce 3.9 million berets for the Army and that these contracts have been designated as small business set-aside, meaning only small U. …

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