The push to get the Department of Defense to require military personnel to use U.S.-made athletic shoes got a boost Wednesday from legislation introduced that requires the military to adhere to the federal rule on military uniforms.

Maine Reps. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., cosponsored the the Stepping Up for American Workers and Troops Act, which requires the Department of Defense to follow a 2014 policy calling for the military to buy U.S-made shoes.

It is estimated that Department of Defense has spent about $180 million on athletic footwear by giving military personnel money to buy shoes — “critical money that could have gone to American jobs and manufacturing,” according to a news release from Poliquin and Tsongas.

The announcement comes the day after New Balance broke its silence on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and blasted the Obama administration for the trade pact, saying it hurt American manufacturers such as New Balance. Poliquin and Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King also said that the military must start adhering to the Berry Amendment, the law requiring the defense department to buy U.S.-made clothing for personnel.

Several companies, including Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Co., with factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway, manufacture shoes in the U.S. that the news release said comply “100 percent” with what the Berry Amendment requires.

In 2014, after efforts from Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan representatives, the Department of Defense agreed to close the footwear loophole in the amendment. But the Department of Defense hasn’t started buying U.S.-made shoes, saying available footwear doesn’t meet military standards.

“New Balance employs 900 Maine craftsmen across our state, in Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Norway, who work hard to make the highest quality athletic shoes in the world,” Poliquin said in the news release. “Manufacturers in Maine and across our nation — like New Balance — have invested in their production to make sure that their American-made shoes are fully Berry Amendment compliant.”

Matt LeBretton, vice president of public affairs at New Balance, said in the release the legislation “will be an important step forward in rectifying what has been an inequity in the application of the federal law known as the Berry Amendment.”

He said Tsongas “has been a champion for U.S. manufacturing throughout the course of her career,” and that the Boston-based firm is grateful for the support from her and Poliquin.

“We welcome this legislation and look forward to getting further details on implementation from the Defense Department,” he said.

Tsongas said in the release the legislation is simple and straightforward, that the defense department “needs to adhere to the law and stop circumventing a policy that is a win for both domestic manufacturing and our service members.

“It is time the DOD stops stalling and moves the process forward,” she said.

She said the benefits of the bill closing the loophole include providing the U.S. military with high-quality training shoes and keeping business on American soil, boosting job growth and continuing to spur American economic development and innovation.

In a separate statement, Pingree said, “The Department of Defense has said, over and over again, that they would buy American-made athletic shoes for military personnel. But the truth is they just haven’t followed through. We’ve asked them repeatedly to make those purchases, so now the time has come to stop asking and start requiring them to do so.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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