American soldiers should be wearing American shoes. That's the argument behind a new bill that would require all military recruits to wear shoes made in the US. Lobbying hard for the bill? New Balance—which just happens to manufacture all its shoes Stateside and stands to make some $50 million if it passes, Politico reports. Navy recruits already wear New Balance sneakers exclusively, but the new bill would force all branches of the armed services to follow suit. The Army and Air Force currently give their recruits a stipend to purchase their own footwear, allowing soldiers to purchase overseas-made brands Nike.
But New Balance, and its supporters in DC, argue that the practice violates a 1941 statute which requires the Department of Defense to procure food and clothes from domestic sources. "Soldiers don’t have a choice for most of the gear that they’re given, so I don’t know why it would be different for athletic footwear," says a New Balance spokesperson. "The administration talks a lot about supporting domestic manufacturing—here’s an opportunity to do it." But maintaining a massive supply of sneakers for every soldier would be a massive undertaking, argues an Army spokesperson "For the Army to maintain those items in inventory," he says, "it would have to be quite a large inventory."