Author Archives: jonathandouglaslong

About jonathandouglaslong

Jonathan D. Long is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army with numerous deployments within Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere serving as an Acquisition Officer. He holds a B.S. degree (business and fine arts) from Lewis and Clark College and an M.B.A. in marketing management and new product development from Claremont Graduate University. Long is a U.S. Army Command and General Staff College graduate and is Department of Defense certified in several contracting and program management related areas. He is a hobby bee keeper and currently the Director of Sales, East Region, YKK-USA , Georgia.

Significant market share lost due to unfair preferences for labor performed by federal inmates through a government-run corporation known as Federal Prison Industries (FPI)

In recent years, manufacturers have lost significant market share in DOD clothing and textiles because of FPI’s preference. FPI as a mandatory source should be limited so more job opportunities can be provided to the U.S. domestic manufacturing base. While FPI certainly has a legitimate function, it is also imperative that they be required to compete by the same rules as industry.

If you feel the same, please add your signature to reach the 25,000 signature threshold required by the White House by March 1, 2012 and influence the administration to respond to this issue.    Please review the attached information and then: 1) Go to https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions. Follow the link at the bottom of the page to create an account.  2) Activate your account by clicking on the link sent to your email (it will take a few minutes for the email to reach your inbox).  3) Change your password using the link provided.

4)  Click on Open Petitions in the Green boxes at the top of the page. (sometimes the White House server is slow, please try again if the page doesn’t load correctly)  5) Locate petition titled “Reform DOD Procurement Policies that Benefit Federal Inmates.” (you may need to close your browser and sign in again in order for this to work)  6) Click the green words “Find Out More”.

7) Click the green button “Sign this petition”.  Thank you for supporting this initiative.

https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions

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Pacific Northwest Companies Stand Out at ADS Expo

Pacific Northwest companies were well represented at the recent ADS Expo East. The event was held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center and hosted more than 180 of industry’s leading companies and featured demonstrations and industry related seminars. Proud to be among this group were many companies located in the Pacific Northwest. I spent time with the following companies to learn about growth and innovation: Benchmade Knife Company, Beyond Clothing, Cascade Designs, Crimson Trace, Danner Boots, and Tactical Tailor. Each company had key members of their leadership on hand to talk about and demonstrate new products which really highlight their manufacturing and creative design efforts towards supporting the military and public safety community.

A few of the observations I have about the Northwest Companies follow.

Benchmade Knife Company continues to define their hook knife product line and push tool engineering to meet the Army’s specific operational needs. What began as a compact tool used by Jump Masters to cut away distressed jumpers has now evolved into a full line of multi use safety tools. Thanks in part to placement on the Army’s Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) product list, the hook knife is now an accepted part of soldiers gear providing additional benefits as part of every Combat Medics Bag. 

The company “Beyond Clothing” might not be a name well-recognized outside of high performance clothing but as I learned at the show, they continue to innovate serving the Special Forces (SF) needs within the Protective Combat Uniform (PCU) program. Beyond meets these requirements in special situations where the mandatory sources cannot. Developed in 2004, the PCU program was designed to specifically to meet SF requirements for cold weather gear when deployed in Afghanistan. The Army followed with the current program called Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) which began fielding in Kuwait in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007. It’s obvious that the services continue to have a requirement for performance clothing for use in unusually harsh, wet and cold environments.

Cascade Designs demonstrated their line of smartly designed stoves and accessories, sleep pads, water purification and hydration systems. It never ceases to amaze to watch the self inflating sleep pad take shape providing a greater level of insulation for cold weather conditions. When you look at the Cascade designed products two things come immediately to mind (1) the high level of manufacturing quality and excellence; (2) the elegance and creativity of their design.

The latest line of grip based laser aiming devices made an impact for Crimson Trace. The laser sights shown to this audience focused on applications for the AR-15 rifle. Crimson Trace had two demonstration rifles on hand for attendees to show how the three options work. Their newest laser is the MVF-515 Vertical Foregrip Light & Laser Combo. From their website, “this serves as a multi-purpose tactical platform as we develop new modules and capabilities.” Rumor has it Crimson Trace will have a newer version to show at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City the first week in August – don’t miss it.

Standing out among the competition in footwear is a tough requirement but Danner makes it look easy. I spent some time with the Danner Combat Hiker Military Boot. This boot does so well is because it was designed for the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan. Unless you have spent time operating in all three current areas of terrain (Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan) it might be easy to think that one boot can do it all! However, that is not the case and Danner Boots gets that. This is especially true in Afghanistan where loose rock as opposed to sand is the norm. The boot has been so well received that it is now procured as part of the Army RFI product list.

Tactical Tailor is in a crowded and competitive market space. However, when it comes to Tactical Tailor’s business, their stated mission of ‘providing superior products of exceptional value” is not just a corporate platitude. After a few minutes of viewing their latest tactical nylon products it’s easy to see why Tactical Tailor products stand out from the competition.  Mass produced nylon makers don’t understand Soldier requirements like Tactical Tailor. A company founded by a Soldier who focused initially on making rucksacks better and then building better bags and packs remains unique within the industry. Tactical Tailor is successful by staying close and really understanding their end-user – the Soldier.

In addition to providing a forum to demonstrate product lines, the ADS event offered a broad schedule over the two days which included industry demonstrations and break-out sessions. The discussions about supporting Explosive Ordinance Detachments (EOD) in Iraq and Afghanistan, the demonstration by the DuPont THERMO-MAN® showing how thermal protection is measured, and the demonstration on the latest technologies and products available for rapid response to aid in disaster relief efforts where particularly great examples.

Most of the companies specifically mentioned are members of the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition (PNDC). This coalition is a member funded organization focused on generating regional technology and business opportunities through local, regional, & national government procurement groups. Their primary focus is helping members to develop opportunities within the Department of Defense (DOD) and Homeland Security. To learn more about the PNDC, visit their webpage at http://www.pndc.us/.

The next opportunity for Pacific Northwest companies to shine will be at the Outdoor Retailer show, Salt Lake City. As members of industry, military procurement officer, requirements developers, and material and product designers descend on Salt Lake, I will be looking for more examples which highlight the depth and creativity of Pacific Northwest companies.

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DHS Ruling Erodes the Strength of the Berry Amendment

Did you know that the legislation named after Congressman E.Y. Berry in 1941, requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to use appropriated funds to procure items made only with domestic materials? The other restrictive agreements often confused with Berry are the Buy American Act, Trade Agreements Act, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Free Trade Agreements, and Defense Authorization Acts and Appropriations Acts. However, the Berry Amendment is the most restrictive when it comes to clothing and textiles.

The original intent of the Berry legislation, as expected, was to protect the domestic clothing and textile industry. The concern today is that other Federal agencies fall only under the Buy American Act which is not as encompassing. Departments such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are not specifically required by the Federal Acquisition Regulation to follow the Berry Amendment, even though this agency is as involved in national defense as the DoD. It gets more confusing because other agencies such as the GSA who procure for the DoD must adhere to the Berry Amendment – so if the DoD procures for DHS the amendment applies but not the reverse.

The question is “why is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  excluded from following Berry Amendment acquisition guidelines?” As reported by  James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent for Textile World, DHS has adopted as final their interim rule established last August 2009 which rejects the objections from the clothing and textile industry. The reason the industry objected to the ruling is that DHS has included the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries Mexico and Canada and for some reason Chile, as eligible for Federal contracts. Even though DHS said it received comments from 26 organizations and individuals and members of Congress suggesting  that DHS comply with the Berry amendment, the DHS response was that the Homeland Security legislation “is not an extension of the Berry Amendment.”  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-13804.pdf

However, apparently not all DHS procurement officers are aware of this final ruling because according to United States Industrial Fabrics Institute (USIFI),  the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U. S. Coast Guard (both DHS organizations) procurement officials do include Berry Amendment requirements for purchases.  

Again, according to Textile World, Representative Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), who guided the textile response to DHS, said that “any rule allowing unnecessary use of non-domestic parts will substantially undermine the job-creating capability.”  Rep. Kissell is obviously concerned with the erosion of the Berry Amendment and the negative consequences for American workers and the industry itself.

Until such time as legislation can be introduced to bring DHS into the same  compliance DoD follows with the Berry Amendment, companies in the clothing and textiles industry must be prepared to support ongoing efforts such as the Kissell amendment. Further, companies must invest in the time and effort required to understand the acquisition policies and procedures of the Federal government and especially the Department of Homeland Security.

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Federal Prison Industries Erodes Clothing and Textile Industrial Base; by jonathandouglaslong

Did you know that even though DoD contracts contain a clause that prohibits manufactures from employing prison labor (such as China) that Federal law requires the DoD to procure certain clothing and textile (C&T) items such as helmets and uniforms from Federal Prison Industries (FPI). According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), approximately 19% of all Army Combat Uniforms (ACU) are produced by Federal prisoners.
Should Federal Prison Industries continue as a mandatory source for Army Combat Helmets (ACH) and Army Combat Uniforms (ACU)? Why should 6,505 federal convicts be fully employed in regional areas of 10% or more unemployment?
This is the question put directly to both Senate and Congressional staffers during a recent AAFA visit to Capitol Hill. In almost all cases, staffers were amazed to learn that much of our military gear is made by federal prisoners. In fact, according to the FPI Annual Report from 2009, prisoners achieved $262.7M in sales in the Clothing and Textiles category earning $36M in profits ($60M in 2008). The question on everyone’s mind is that given prisoners are only paid pennies per hour, who is reaping the benefits of these $36M in earnings? The question from the tax payer’s mind is simple – wouldn’t it be better for the $262.7M in sales to be pushed into the free enterprise market and potentially re-employ the 6,505 tax paying, sewing and manufacturing people who may be unemployed today?
The other question is a matter of quality assurance in the personal protective products made by UNICOR. From the FPI website “UNICOR also produces body armor that meets National Institute of Justice (NIJ) standards, as well as a wide range of ballistic products for military applicants.” Unfortunately these products do not meet NIJ standards given the recent recall of 44,000 Army Combat Helmets. The Army and the prime contact holder Armor Source both confirmed that UNICOR, also called Federal Prison Industries, manufactured all 44,000 of the recalled helmets.
The stated purpose of the FPI program, again from the FPI web site is “. . . not about business, but instead, about inmate release preparation…. helping offenders acquire the skills necessary to successfully make that transition from prison to law-abiding, contributing members of society. The production of items and provision of services are merely by-products of those efforts.” I wonder how the clothing and textile $96M profit over the last two years really helped prisoners acquire job skills.
The Industrial Base and overall employment of textile, apparel, and furnishings workers is expected to decline rapidly through 2018 from 212,400 jobs in the year 2008 to 140,900 jobs by the year 2018; a loss of 71,500 jobs. Specific rehabilitation by the FPI program in the C&T industry is for sewing machine operators which is expected to decline rapidly by 34 percent (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos233.htm#outlook). Question – why is the government taking potential jobs from workers who could be employed today, to train and rehabilitate prisoners in a declining job field with little hope for a job when released from prison?
Wouldn’t the government be better served by focusing on the areas of high future job growth? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the top ten following occupations requiring only on-the-job training or work experience, than all other occupations with similar requirements will grow the fastest, through 2018. Home Health Aides growth 50 percent; Home Care Aides 46 percent; Physical Therapist Aides 36 percent; Dental Assistants 36 percent; Medical Assistants 34 percent; Self-Enrichment Teachers 32 percent; Government Compliance Officers 31 percent; Occupational Therapist Aides 31 percent; Pharmacy Technician 31 percent; and Medical Secretaries 27 percent.
Now – granted, some of these occupations may not be a good fit because they require background and security assessments to deal with personal data. This doesn’t change the fact that these are the greatest growth potential job fields and therefore have the greatest rehabilitation and reemployment potential for prisoners over through 2018. The Department of Justice, which oversees the FPI program, must get creative in determining how to really best support rehabilitation of prisoners and not just push inmates into labor intensive jobs like clothing and textiles because FPI can make significant profits.
There is a current amendment offered by Representative Walter B. Jones (NC) included in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (HR 5136) which attempts to get at the question of unfairly controlling market share. The amendment requires FPI to follow the existing rules. It is neither REP Jones nor the AAFA’s intent to cancel the rehabilitation efforts of FPI but to roll back FPI’s market share as required by law in product areas where they exceed 5%. The 5% cap is already included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 (Public Law 110-18). The point now is to control FPI’s appetite for growth in clothing and textiles beyond the 5% limitation – for example pulling back 10 – 12% of ACU production and pushing that production back into the private industrial base to increase job growth.
I believe this is a step in the right direction by Congress and bringing the aggressive nature of FPI to the attention of the Secretary of Defense. It seems that holding FPI to the already defined 5% cap is right. However, the larger questions remain as to why doesn’t the Congress push the 6,505 prisoner jobs into private industry to provide more employment opportunity? Further, why does the Federal government prohibit contractors from using prison labor when the US government mandates that percentages of all Federal contracts be set aside for US prison labor? And last, what is the message that we are sending to both our troops and to our allies when the soldier, sailors, marines, and airman who deploy to defend our values of freedom and democracy are wearing uniforms made by US federal prisoners?

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