An important part of U.S. Representative Larry Kissell’s ongoing legislative efforts to protect U.S. textile jobs took a major step forward last week as his amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Kissell’s amendment would ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to purchase foreign-made yarns or fabrics to be used in the manufacture of uniforms for the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police, according to Kissell’s staff.
Representatives of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition weighed in on the issue, praising Kissell’s efforts to fight for job security in North Carolina and the U.S.
“There are two levels to this issue,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the coalition. “First, there’s the specific focus on these uniforms and the contracts to make them. Then there’s the bigger issue of overall implementation of the Buy American Provision, also known as the Berry Amendment. It requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to purchase 100 percent of the textiles used from U.S. companies.”
Tantillo said the coalition is greatly concerned over what appears to be a continued erosion of enforcing this provision.
“We’re concerned about (the DOD’s) desire to seek out wavers and loopholes,” said Tantillo. “This case is a good example of that.”
Tantillo went on to explain that Congress approved a program to supply the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police with textiles for uniforms about four years ago. The Afghan agencies were then to manufacture their own uniforms using textiles supplied by U.S. companies. The manufacturing of the end product was to allow for stimulation of their own economy.
“This is all payed for by U.S. tax dollars,” said Tantillo. “It was a unique program designed to give Afghans the opportunity to work, but not to strip away the textile producers here.”
“Companies from North Carolina were supplying the component parts, but for some reason at the beginning of this year Congress decided to open it up to anyone — Chinese manufacturers, and other countries.”
Tantillo said coalition members became frustrated with the lack of answers from DOD about the new rule change.
“Larry Kissell, along with Sen. Lindsay Graham and Sen. Kay Hagan, started working on this in January, and decided to take legislative action,” said Tantillo. “I’m frustrated that we even had to go through this but fortunately we have people like them, who will demand that we keep jobs here.”
“This is a common sense measure that will protect taxpayer money and protect American textile jobs,” said Kissell. “In any instance where taxpayer dollars are being spent, our government should ensure that every possible step is taken to promote America’s interests ahead of anyone else’s. It is ridiculous that this loophole even exists, but I’m glad we were able to identify it and go to work on fixing it with bi-partisan support in the House and the Senate.”
Kissell’s amendment was introduced in the Senate Armed Services Committee by Senator Graham (R-S.C.) and Senator Hagan (D-N.C.). The measure was approved by the full committee on May 24.
“It’s going to be difficult for opponents to strip this out,” said coalition member Lloyd Wood. “This is a perfect example of Washington being out of touch with everyday Americans. You hear politicians giving speech after speech about job creation, but then they don’t make the day-to-day decisions to support that.”
“Folks here in the Carolinas understand the importance of fighting for the textile industry and they understand that taxpayer money should never be used to buy flawed goods from countries such as China or Vietnam when we can make them here at home,” said Kissell. “I’m glad this legislation has taken another step toward becoming the law of the land, and I thank Senators Graham and Hagan for their leadership in moving this common sense concept forward.”
The Senate will consider the full 2013 National Defense Authorization Act in the coming weeks. The companion legislation, including Kissell’s amendment, passed the House last week.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.