Why the Berry Amendment is "Berry Good" for America
In 1939, the United States Military had slightly less than 335,000 service men and women in our Armed Forces. Shortly after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, this number would change rapidly. In preparation for war, President Roosevelt stated to the country shortly afterwards, that in order to achieve victory, “Powerful enemies must be out-fought and out-produced.” The key to victory would be the intelligence, skill, and courage of the American soldier and our ability as a nation to quickly supply them with the best equipment possible. By the end of the World War II in 1945, 12 million men and women served in our military. The ability of the United States to feed, clothe, and provide equipment for this many people (as well as helping supply our Allies) was truly beyond comprehension and could not have occurred without a large, innovative, and efficient manufacturing base. Although much has changed in our manufacturing sector and the way our military operates since WWII, the need to supply our men and women with high quality products when needed has not.
For example, at Engineered Polymer Technologies (EPT) we manufacture Berry Compliant Polyester and Nylon Coated Fabrics at our Hillside, NJ plant. Our coated fabrics, available in a variety of polymers, including PVC (polyvinyl chloride), TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), and EIA (ethylene interpolymer alloy) are constructed with US made fabrics such as polyester and nylon. These materials, down to the yarn, must be produced in US factories to comply with the Berry Amendment. We work very closely with our customers to ensure that every product meets or exceeds US military specifications. It is this unique, synergistic relationship between US manufacturers and our military that the Berry amendment fosters. In the end, our coated fabrics are formulated and engineered for a variety of US military products, including Tarpaulins, Covers, Tents/Shelters, Bags, Primary and Secondary Containment, Ground Cloths, Spill Containment Booms, and Collapsible Pillow Tanks.
Based on the 1941 Fifth Supplemental Department of Defense Appropriations Act, the Berry Amendment was passed by Congress to protect the U.S. industrial base in time of war. Although the true identity of the author of this Amendment is unknown, it was most likely named after George Leonard Berry (labor activist and U.S. Senator from Tennessee). Born in 1882, George L. Berry worked within and outside the printing industry before being elected at age 25 as president of the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union (IPPAU). During the 1930’s, FDR appointed George Berry to a few New Deal Committees, which included the cotton textile board. Upon the death of Senator Nathan Bachman in 1937, Berry was appointed to fill his seat for the remainder of his term.
What was the original intent of the Berry Amendment? Before the United States entry into World War II, Congress understood war was imminent. The Amendment was established for the Department of Defense (DoD) for a specific purpose: to ensure U.S. troops wore military uniforms entirely produced in the United States and to make certain they were fed with food sourced solely from the United States. The Berry Amendment would later be codified as United States Code Title 10 Section 2533a. A brief summary of the amendment is that money appropriated or available to the DoD can only be used to purchase the following items if they are grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States, in other words “wholly U.S. Origin”. This applies to the following items/articles: Food; clothing; tents tarpaulins or covers; cotton and other natural fiber products; woven silk or woven silk blends; spun silk yarn for cartridge cloth; synthetic fabric or coated synthetic fabric (which includes all textile fibers and yarns used in those fabrics); canvas products, or wool (whether in the form of fiber or yarn or contained in fabrics, materials, or manufactured articles); or any item of individual equipment manufactured from or containing such fibers, yarns, fabrics, or materials; and hand or measuring tools. There are some exceptions to the Amendment, which can be found in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS 225.7002-2).
It is important to mention the “Buy American Act of 1933”. The Buy American Act is not to be confused with the Berry Amendment. Key differences between the two are as follows: 1) Buy American Act applies only to federal government contracts to be carried out within the United States, while the Berry Amendment is specific to the Department of Defense (DoD) and for contracts that can be worldwide. 2) Buy American Act requires that “substantially all” of the costs of foreign components not exceed 50% of the cost of all components (thus, an item can be of 51% domestic content and still be in compliance). The Berry Amendment however, requires that items be 100% domestic in origin.
Why is the Berry Amendment still important to America? It is certainly not without some critics. Some contend that the Berry Amendment contradicts free trade policies, which are designed to encourage competition in order to improve efficiencies (cost) and quality. Although most agree with this, the reality is that competition still exists among domestic suppliers with available manufacturing capacity offering competitive prices, while still complying with the Berry Amendment. Perhaps a more important question is: What is the long-term cost to the country’s safety if it cannot supply itself with those products necessary in times of war? Those who are in favor of the Berry Amendment tend to make the argument that key domestic sectors, such as manufacturing, are crucial to the security and autonomy of the United States and should thus be supported. As history has taught us, in times of conflict (both prior to and after WWII), the ability of the United States to manufacture the products needed to equip itself is a key component to success. Finally, no one disputes that whatever promotes economic growth and stability for the US is a prudent investment for Americans.
For more information about Berry Amendment
To learn more about the Kissel Amendment, which expands Berry to other armed services, please click here.