U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, decried Wednesday the apparent illegal importation by an American company of Chinese-made boots for the U.S. military.
The Connecticut Democrat said in the letter that, if the allegations in an indictment unsealed last month are true, Tennessee-based Wellco Enterprises had violated "Buy American" laws when it imported footwear from China as part of at least $138 million in contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. According to reports, $8.1 million in China-made boots were imported by Wellco between December 2008 and August 2012.
Wellco removed tear-away “Made in China” tags from at least some of the products to make it appear that the footwear had been made in the United States, according to the indictment in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn.
"I am very concerned about the amount of items purchased by the Department of Defense that are manufactured overseas," Murphy said in his letter. "Too many loopholes exist in current statutes that the Department has exploited in order to purchase goods made overseas, and I am working to amend those statutes."
U.S. law requires all manufactured U.S. military uniforms, including footwear, to be made domestically. Murphy has been pushing even stronger legislation, the 21st Century Buy American Act and the American Jobs Matter Act, that he said would help Connecticut manufacturers and make the federal purchase of American-made goods a priority.
Murphy said the deliberate attempt to bypass buy-American laws costs U.S. jobs and endangers the country's industrial base. He urged swift action against Wellco as well as stronger efforts to crack down on fraud while praising military investigators who uncovered the alleged attempt to skirt the law.
"Wellco’s alleged actions violate the law and undermine that decades-old compact between industry and government,” Murphy said.