Just as the uniforms of U.S. Olympians being manufactured in China caused a ruckus last summer, the latest regarding where the uniforms of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol employees are produced is sure to cause a stir as well.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents patrol along the Rio Grande near Wednesday, June 8, 2011 in Penitas, Texas. (Photo: AP/Eric Gay)
CNSNews reported that in speaking with CBP about its more than $6 million short-term contract for uniforms with VF Imagewear, Inc., it found out uniforms are manufactured in various locations -- including Mexico. Other manufacturing locations operated by the company are in South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Here's more on what the agency had to say:
“There are no domestic preference regulations or statutes applicable to DHS/CBP that would prohibit the manufacture of uniform items in Mexico,” the CBP said. “In fact, United States obligations under International Agreements require that the Agency accept items manufactured in Mexico.”
“Consistent with the foregoing, VF is permitted to provide items manufactured in Mexico under the current contract,” the agency said.
The contract between the company and CBP will produce 3,400 uniforms for students at training academies as well as replacing some agents' uniforms.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent Sanchez. (Photo: AP/Eric Gay)
It's worth pointing out that made in Mexico uniforms are not a new issue. The Washington Times reported in 2004 that the uniforms produced for CBP, which at the time had just recently been moved under the Department of Homeland Security, by the same company raised some eyebrows. Here's more from that story:
“I’m embarrassed, not only as a Border Patrol agent but as an American citizen, that our government has decided to outsource the production of these uniforms with no regard for the safety of the process or the security of our country,” said Joseph N. Dassaro, president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) Local 1613 in San Diego.
Patricia Todaro, CBP’s director of logistics, said the agency purchases new uniforms, along with jackets, shoes, hats and other equipment, from those suppliers from whom the government can obtain the best possible value for the taxpayer’s dollar.
“Our contracts allow us to seek out the best value for the government and that means we use vendors who might not be located in the United States,” Mrs. Todaro said. “In the end, we end up getting the best price and the best value.”
A Mexican immigrant sits under U.S. Border Patrol supervision after his group was caught while crossing illegally into the United States on March 6, 2013 near Walker Canyon, Arizona. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
The short-term contract with VF Imagewear is an interim contract before another is officially awarded in May 2013. According to a document by the CBP justifying its interim contract, the need for new uniforms is "urgent" and there was a suitable vendor option available to fulfill them:
Due to the urgency of the situation, and the limited resources available to the program, splitting up the acquisition of the various uniform items to multiple vendors is not cost efficient, and increases the risk that a new vendor that is unfamiliar with our requirements, would be unable to perform per our requirements and therefore put the agency into a situation when: we would not be able to dress our new recruits and would be unable to perform per the [terms] of the CR.
Mission critical is defined as protecting our nation's borders, safeguarding the homeland, protecting against terrorism, and enforcing lawful international trade. These new agents and officers are needed in order t) maintain the congressionally mandated levels that are required to maintain the force needed to meet that mission critical need. This interim contract is not only needed for the health, welfare and safety of the new officers protecting our ports and borders, but ensures the continuing support of CBP's mission. To perform these duties, CBP's uniform wear policy requires uniformed pe~sonnel to wear uniforms when stationed throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Uniformed employees are authorized to wear their respective CBP uniform while engaged in the discharge of official CBP business. The new agents and officers cannot wear plain clothes, they have to have the appropriate uniforms to perform their duty as well as ensuring their health, welfare and safety.
CNSNews also pointed to a $50 million contract awarded by TSA to the same company for uniforms. Politicians, like Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), have spoken out against the production of government uniforms outside the U.S. in the past due to national security issues. This is also an issue that VF Imagewear's parent company, VF Corporation, has discussed as well in one of its annual reports, as noted by CNSNews.
In a 2005 Global Compliance Report, VF Corporation noted its partnership with CBP to support the Customs and Trade Partnership Against Terrorism initiative (C-TPAT), which would prevent dangerous or illegal cargo coming to the United States in shipping containers.
"As part of our participation in the C-TPAT program, we have added a check of plant security measures to our factory audits. These checks include interviews with security guards as well as a review of existing policies and procedures relating to facility security," the Global Compliance Report stated.
Read more about the contract for CBP's uniforms in CNSNews' full article here.