Amendments to Defense Appropriations (H.R. 5293)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendments to H.R. 5293,  Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2017:

Key Vote Alert: “YES” Gosar Anti-DACA Amendment (#4)

This week, the House will vote on an amendment by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) 93% to H.R. 5293, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2017. The amendment would prohibit funds from being used to extend the expiration of, or reissue a new expiration date to, the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.

The MANVI program is a pilot program authorizing “military services to recruit certain legal immigrants whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest.” However, a DoD memo has made it clear that DACA/DAPA recipients are eligible under this program, essentially opening up a pathway to amnesty for illegal aliens who enlist.  By ensuring that this guidance ends, DOD will no longer be able to enlist illegal immigrants through MAVNI.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) 14% has repeatedly offered amendments to codify this interpretation of the program to the National Defense Authorization Act. Last year, Rep. Gallego succeeded in adding his amendment at the committee level, but it was later stripped out on the floor by an amendment offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) 94% (Heritage Action key voted in favor of the amendment).

Unfortunately, this year, the House Armed Services Committee adopted a similar Gallego Amendment — a Sense of Congress attempting to formally endorse the idea that DOD can enlist illegal immigrants who have qualified for DAPA/DACA.  The Gosar Amendment would essentially prohibit funding to follow through on the Gallego language in the NDAA and clarify that participants in the MANVI program must have received a lawful immigration status in accordance with the law and actually be vital to the national interest.

Heritage Action supports the Gosar Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Sanford Freedom in Footwear Amendment (#29)

This week, the House will vote on an amendment by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) 85% to H.R. 5293, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2017. This amendment would prevent section 808 of the House passed NDAA from going into effect by withholding funding. Section 808 was added during the HASC markup en bloc after being offered by Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) 12%.

The Tsongas provision, commonly referred to as the New Balance Provision, would mandate the purchase of Berry Amendment-compliant running shoes for new military recruits. Currently, new Army and Air Force recruits receive a one-time stipend to purchase running shoes from a variety of manufacturers including Asics, Brooks and New Balance. The Tsongas provision would eliminate that choice, essentially forcing the Department of Defense to purchase New Balance shoes for new military recruits.  

Before the NDAA passed the House the Obama Administration released their Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) against this provision highlighting how the lack of choice could harm new recruits:

“Forcing DOD into a “one size fits all” approach to athletic footwear may contribute to a higher incidence of injury to new recruits during one of the most critical times in a member’s military training. DOD places the health of our service members above all other considerations.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) 49% led the Senate opposition to the New Balance provision, along with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) 94%.

In addition to the concern over the health of our troops,  fiscal conservatives should also be concerned over the costs.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Tsongas-New Balance provision would increase costs by roughly $50 million over the next decade and DOD estimates cost north of $300 million.

Supporters of the provision claim this is merely an attempt to close a loophole in the Berry Amendment, because the DOD is dragging its feet to fulfill the requirements of the law. The Berry Amendment, originating in 1941 on the eve of World War II, was put in place to prevent supply disruptions and to ensure an American industrial base to provide vital military items by requiring these items be American made. It is what is commonly referred to as a “Buy America” provision.

The world has changed significantly since then and there are serious questions about whether this policy or others like it are really necessary or even good for the military. Last year, Heritage Foundation defense analyst Justin Johnson wrote about the economic and national security drawbacks to “Buy America” provisions like the Berry Amendment:

“Buy America is a great bumper sticker and political slogan, but it is bad economic and security policy. The concept is simple: The Department of Defense (DOD) should buy from American companies and suppliers. Economically this makes no sense. Protectionist policies like Buy America—or tariffs that protect specific industries—ultimately hurt the U.S. economy more than they help. Protectionist policies also mean that the DOD and therefore American taxpayers pay more for a given product or service.”

While there may be at times be national security reasons to pursuing purely American made products, it would be difficult for anyone to argue running shoes would fit that description. Furthermore, at a time our military is facing serious readiness concerns, we cannot afford to pursue any policy that wastes precious resources,

While other companies (Suacony, for example) may eventually have Berry Amendment compliant shoes that pass the DoD’s guidelines, in the near term this provision appears to benefit a single company at the expense of the most important people in this story: our military recruits. This provision would severely limit their choice by forcing them to essentially buy only New Balance shoes since they are currently the only shoe company to meet this new requirement. Not surprisingly, New Balance has spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Administration and Congress for this special provision.

This latest push is even shrouded in shady backroom deals regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal involving a number of Asian countries and the U.S. According to New Balance itself, the company cut a handshake deal with the Obama administration where they would refrain from attacking the TPP publicly in exchange for a favorable treatment on this very military procurement issue. Just a few weeks ago, New Balance was criticizing the administration in public for not following through on their end of the agreement. This provision appears to be a clear response to these reports to force the administration’s hand to give them favorable treatment, thus making good on their backroom deal.

America’s brave sons and daughters deserve the best products available, not the product handed to them through the confluence of parochial politics and Washington lobbying.

Heritage Action supports the Sanford Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Heritage Action Press Statement on Sanford Amendment
DeMint: Our Military Deserves Better than One Brand of Shoes
Daily Signal: A Look into Washington’s Crony Dealmaking
Needham: New Balance’s Cronyism Invades Defense Bill