By  on December 23, 2005

WASHINGTON — Trade groups praised Congressional passage this week of a bill requiring the Defense Department to go to greater lengths to buy U.S.-made apparel.

The Senate approved the measure in a voice vote late Wednesday, after the House passed the legislation 374 to 41 on Monday. The bill now goes to President Bush for final approval.

The department already has to give special consideration to domestic producers under the Berry Amendment, but waivers are issued when U.S.-made goods are not believed to be available or in emergency situations when national security is at stake.

A provision sponsored by Rep. Robin Hayes (R., N.C.) and inserted into the 2006 Defense Authorization legislation requires that Congress be notified within seven days if foreign manufacturers are given contracts for goods such as T-shirts, pants or uniforms. The Secretary of Defense also must put the contract on the Internet and open up bidding to U.S. firms.

"This notification process will help ensure that our industry has a fair shake in competing for this business," Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, said in a statement. "These provisions will have a significant deterrent effect on the procurement officials at [the Defense Department] and will open new and expanded opportunities for domestic manufacturers to supply these goods."

The bill also stipulates that the Defense Department, which bought more than $2.5 billion worth of apparel and textiles in fiscal 2005, also must try first to buy goods made of domestically produced materials.

"It is only right that American companies provide the clothing worn by American service men and women," Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said in a statement.

Burke also said a provision sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R., N.C.) that authorized additional training for Defense procurement personnel would help keep contracts from slipping through the cracks.

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