Why does the NDAA limit military recruits to one type of shoe?
The National Defense Authorization Act is up for debate in Congress, and one of the more interesting sections is Section 808 (2015-16 NDAA), which would essentially grant New Balance, the athletic shoe company, with an exclusive contract to outfit new military recruits with running shoes.
The Department of Defense is mandated under the Berry Amendment to procure only American-made apparel. New military recruits can choose to get their athletic footwear from the DOD or receive a $70 cash voucher to purchase their shoes elsewhere. However, this proposal to the NDAA would remove the voucher option and restrict the choices of shoes available to recruits down to two types of one model of New Balance running shoes.
As it is currently written, the NDAA unfairly tips the scales in favor of New Balance, especially when there are other American-made running shoe brands available that currently comply with the Berry Amendment. Sales of New Balance would become largely dependent on government largesse rather than the demand of the consumer, and American service members would suffer by being forced to use a product that may not meet their individual physical performance needs. Government playing favorites, using U.S. taxpayer money to essentially subsidize one private business over another, is anathema to a free market. The idea is so odious that even the Department of Defense opposes it.
When forced to choose, vouchers are better than a subsidy, and so sustaining cash vouchers to our service members so that they can choose which shoes allow them to best maximize their physical performance is a better idea. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers through tax carve-outs and special favors.
Congress owes it to our men and women in uniform to ensure they are equipped with the best equipment available for them to accomplish their mission, and to the taxpayers to ensure a free and fair economic marketplace.