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U.S. flags at military bases must be all-American

Feb. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Defense Department must fly American flags at military bases that are produced wholly in the U.S.
The Defense Department must fly American flags at military bases that are produced wholly in the U.S. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Here’s a Stars and Stripes shocker: Prior to Friday, flags bought by the Defense Department weren’t necessarily 100 percent American-made.

But going forward, flags purchased by the military must be wholly sourced from the U.S. — and not have any elements from overseas, according to a DoD purchasing rules amendment that went into effect Friday.

While DoD’s major flag vendors are American companies, the flag material — such as ink and fabric — could have come from foreign markets prior to the change.

“Our men (and) women in uniform should serve under American-made flags,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., said on his Facebook page last week. He proposed the legislation requiring the flags to be 100 percent American-made.

In that post, he also gave a nod to flag company North Bay Industries in Rohnert Park, Calif., which produces flags that are wholly American-made. “Our tax dollars should be spent on American-made flags like those at NBI,” he said.

DoD purchases American flags for purposes such as flying them over the Pentagon, military bases and ships, as well as to use as burial flags for military personnel killed in action.

At press time, DoD didn’t have an estimate on how many flags it purchases each year. But Robert Hutt, CEO at North Bay, told The Press Democrat that the DoD buys about 1,000 to 2,000 annually.

The new rule doesn’t apply to other components related to flying or displaying flags, such as flagpoles or accessories.

After Thompson posted news of the regulation on his Facebook page, it spurred much debate among users on that site. Some applauded the rule, saying that all American flags should be completely produced in the U.S. Others said flag production should be done by the most cost-effective source, even if that meant going outside of the U.S.

A similar bill requiring all government-purchased flags be made in the U.S. has repeatedly failed, CBS News reported, noting that it’s often less expensive to buy American flags made in China.

The new military requirements extend the existing Berry Amendment to flags, reported CBS News. That amendment, which passed in 1941, bans DoD from buying food, clothing, military uniforms, fabrics, stainless steel and hand or measuring tools that are not grown or produced in the U.S., except in rare special circumstances.

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