POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

The Best Economic Stimulus is a Job

by David Trumbull

February 20, 2009

The stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1), included legislation offered by Congressman Larry Kissell of North Carolina mandating that textile and apparel products contracted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) be manufactured in the United States with 100 percent U.S. inputs. This mandate, commonly known as the Berry Amendment, was first applied to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) beginning in 1941.

“The Kissell Amendment will immediately help textile and apparel companies because it will cover uniforms and other textile products purchased by DHS for TSA and the Coast Guard. This program can be expanded by the Obama Administration to cover other DHS agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. Needless to say, we will be encouraging President Obama to do this,” said Karl Spilhaus, President of the National Textile Association (NTA).

The U.S. textile and apparel sector has been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn with 60,000 jobs lost during the past twelve months.

The Berry Amendment requires the DoD to buy certain products, judged essential to military readiness, with 100 percent U.S. content and labor. These products include clothing and other textile items, specialty steel, and food. The Berry Amendment ensures military readiness through an active defense-industrial base and provides a reliable domestic source for certain vital goods during times of war.

The Kissell Amendment extends Berry to cover U.S. Coast Guard and TSA procurement of textile and apparel products. DHS may waive the requirements if the specific item is not produced in the United States or cannot be procured in a reasonable time at a reasonable cost.

The reason why the Kissell Amendment provisions would only extend to TSA and the Coast Guard and not other DHS agencies is because the U.S. government is a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), which prohibits Berry-type provisions. The United States has the option to exempt agencies critical to national security from the GPA, but only has chosen to exempt the Coast Guard and TSA within DHS. Nevertheless, The Kissell Amendment also allows the Obama Administration to apply the Berry Amendment to other agencies within DHS (Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, FEMA, and Citizenship and Immigrations Services) should the U.S government choose to exercise its discretion and also exempt them from the GPA.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]