DLA ensures textiles-based PPE is American-made per Berry Amendment

By Mikia Muhammad and Beth Reece

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Despite worldwide shortages of medical supplies for COVID-19, the Defense Department agency that supplies military equipment to troops around the world is helping the Department of Health and Human Services provide items like masks and gloves that are made here in America when possible.

The Defense Logistics Agency has contracted for over $2.14 billion worth of material, much of it textiles-based personal protective equipment, on behalf of DOD, HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency since early this year. The Berry Amendment requires DOD agencies to procure clothing and textiles items, as well as food, from domestic sources.

“When DLA is responsible for the procurement, regardless of the customer, we are bound by the [Berry Amendment] requirements of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation and other DOD-specific laws and regulations,” said Sherri Potts, who oversees procurement process programs for DLA Troop Support.

DLA Troop Support’s clothing and textiles experts buy almost 98% of the military’s uniforms and other textile-based goods from U.S. companies although the textiles and apparel industry is mostly foreign-based, said Chief of Strategic Material Sourcing Donna Pointkouski. Contracts for disposable and reusable gowns to Berry-compliant vendors to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile, which is managed by HHS, is just one example of how DLA Troop Support has provided American-made personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19.

The fragility of the domestic base and mass closures early in the pandemic have made DLA’s ability to procure American-made items to support COVID-19 all the more remarkable and highlights the strong ties between DOD and domestic clothing and textiles vendors, Pointkouski said.

“As a result of trades taking commercial work off shore, the remaining domestic industrial base has become more heavily dependent upon the DOD, primarily through procurements from DLA,” she said, adding that many U.S. clothing and textiles manufacturers would go out of business without DOD contracts.

“Without the Berry Amendment, there would be virtually no domestic clothing industrial base,” Ponitkouski continued. “C&T complies with the law and is committed to supporting our domestic industrial base. Without it, we cannot support our warfighters and give them the clothing and equipment that they need.”

Prospective vendors must certify that they comply with Berry Amendment standards when submitting proposals, said Procurement Process Support Deputy Director John Fafara.

“It’s basically self-certification, but there are instances when we will follow up on that information,” he said, adding that DLA may ask for additional documentation and conduct site visits throughout the contract period to ensure vendors are getting their materials from domestic sources.

DLA can terminate the contract if it discovers a vendor isn’t Berry-compliant, Potts added. Non-compliant vendors may also be subject to reconstitution costs.

C&T keeps vendors updated on sourcing challenges and emphasizes Berry Amendment compliance during vendor engagements like the annual Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry.

“Berry Amendment compliance is emphasized with vendors at our JAPBI and other conferences, including the explanation that it applies to every component of the item and subcomponents, for example, each piece of a zipper,” Pointkouski said.

Exceptions to buying American-made items are rare and commonly used for acquisitions under $250,000 or if a Domestic Non-Availability Determination has been issued, concluding that the item can’t feasibly be produced in the U.S.

Other government agencies have their own laws and regulations. The Kissell Amendment, for example, restricts the Department of Homeland Security to procuring uniforms and other textiles from U.S. manufacturers with certain exceptions.