This law requires the Department of Defense to buy American products

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
abrams tanks

U.S. Army photo The M1 Abrams is America's main battle tank (U.S. Army)

The U.S. military requires a lot of stuff to do its job. Everything from uniforms and bedding to guns and bullets has to be purchased at the cost of the American taxpayer. Naturally, the government wants to keep as much of this money within the American economy as possible. Thanks to the Berry Amendment, the majority of it does.

The Berry Amendment is named for Rep Ellis Berry (U.S. Congress)

In 1941, Congress passed the domestic resources restriction. As part of the Fifth Supplemental Appropriation Act, it restricted the DOD (then the Department of War) to purchasing domestically produced products. Most notably, it covered textiles like clothing and fabric as well as food. This aimed to protect the domestic industrial base during times of war.

In 1952, Congressman Ellis Berry introduced an amendment to the 1933 Buy American Act. The amendment expanded the law to cover all manner of clothing, cotton and wool purchases made by the U.S. government. Since then, any restrictions in the annual Defense Appropriation Acts have been called Berry Amendments. In 1994, the Berry Amendment became permanent.

Originally made in Italy, the M9 was produced in Maryland and Tennessee (U.S. Army)

In 1973, a provision was added to cover metals. It states that specialty metals incorporated in products delivered to the DOD be melted in the United States or a “qualifying country.” A 2007 amendment specifically listed six major metal products: aircraft, missile and space systems, ships, tank and automotive items, weapon systems and ammunition. For this reason, contracted weapons originally made in foreign countries like the Beretta M9 must be made from start to finish in America.

Also introduced in 2007 and 2008 were exceptions for certain Commercial-Off-The-Shelf items, small amounts of non-domestic metal in specific products and a national security waiver. These exceptions were included specifically to support contingency operations or when acquisition of these products was compelled by an unusual urgency. For example, if troops desperately needed some type of life-saving equipment that was readily available on the commercial market but made overseas, it could be purchased as an exception and quickly supplied to them. Still, exceptions and waivers are subject to Congressional review and approval.

The Navy’s new frigates will be made by Italian company Fincantieri in their U.S. shipyards of U.S. steel (Fincantieri)

In 2009, the American Recovery and Investment Act brought about huge levels of federal spending to stimulate the economy. It included legislation introduced by Congressman Larry Kissell mandating that textile and clothing products purchased by the Department of Homeland Security be made in the U.S. out of 100% U.S. material. The Kissell Amendment is a virtual copy of the Berry Amendment and extends the priority to buy American products to DHS organizations like the Coast Guard.

Despite the growth of the global economy, the Berry Amendment ensures that American dollars be spent at the benefit of American business. The strain that the COVID-19 virus placed on international logistics has only further highlighted the importance of growing, building and buying American.