LOWELL -- That signature New Balance logo could soon be disguised in camouflage all across U.S. military camps.

Thanks to a push from U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday that it will change its policy and provide servicemen and women with American-made footwear. Tsongas has championed legislation over the past several years to boost local and national footwear manufacturing, while also supplying the military with the "best equipment possible."

"I applaud the Department of Defense for making this policy change which will require all services to treat athletic footwear like every other uniform item, including boots," Tsongas said in a press release. "The DoD has spent approximately $180 million on the athletic footwear cash allowance program to date, which is money that could have gone to American jobs and manufacturing.

"Innovative companies, such as New Balance right here in Massachusetts are able to provide our servicemembers with quality products and keep business here on American soil. This policy change will boost job growth, spur economic development and innovation and give the brave men and women of our armed forces better gear. It is a win all around," she added.

In past years, Tsongas has said there was a loophole within the DoD's purchasing process, emphasizing it was costing American manufacturing jobs and inhibiting U.S. military members from training in high-quality American footwear.


Congress passed the Berry Amendment in 1941 to ensure that American soldiers trained and operated, to the greatest extent possible, with American-made uniforms and equipment. However, since fiscal year 2002, Tsongas said the Defense Department has circumvented this policy by issuing cash allowances to new recruits for training shoes which are not required to be Berry Amendment-compliant.

But in a letter to Tsongas on Friday, Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox announced that the Department of Defense will provide military recruits with American-made footwear.

"I am writing to inform you of a policy change I have directed on Secretary Hagel's behalf with respect to athletic shoes... DoD has an interest in having our recruits purchase domestically manufactured athletic shoes to the maximum extent practicable in order to abide by the spirit of the Berry Amendment," Fox wrote.

Each military service will assess each recruit's foot type and athletic shoe type, developing a list of shoe-type options for male and female recruits, according to Fox's directions.

If one or more Berry Amendment-compliant shoe models correspond to a shoe-type category, only these shoes will be available for purchase using a recruit's one-time cash allowance for athletic shoes.

Boston-based manufacturer New Balance now produces a 100 percent Berry Amendment-compliant shoe that costs less than the current Army allowance. The company has a sales and production plant in Lawrence, which is in Tsongas' congressional district. And there is at least one other footwear manufacturing company -- Michigan-based Wolverine Worldwide -- that can provide a 100 percent Berry Amendment-compliant athletic shoe, and at least five other companies have begun the process to make one.

"Today the Department of Defense took a big step forward in rectifying what had been an inequity in the application of the federal law known as the Berry Amendment," said Matt LeBretton, director of public affairs for New Balance. "Congresswoman Tsongas has been a champion for U.S. manufacturing throughout the course of her career and we are grateful for her support of the domestic footwear industry.

"We welcome this policy change and look forward to getting further details on implementation from the Defense Department," LeBretton added in the statement. "It's time that our troops are outfitted in high quality athletic footwear that is Made in America.".

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.