The sequester did not prevent the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from acting in late February to seal a $50-million deal to purchase new uniforms for its agents–uniforms that will be partly manufactured in Mexico.
Soon after this new investment in TSA uniforms, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Americans that the lines are already lengthening at airports due to the sequester.
On Feb. 27, the agency announced that on Feb. 22 it had awarded a one-year contract to VF Imagewear, Inc., which owns the Lee brand and Wrangler Hero, to provide the uniforms. “This contract will address the requirements of the TSA, Office of Security Operations, TSA Uniform Program,” the award states.
The TSA employs 50,000 security officers, inspectors, air marshals and managers. That means that the uniform contract will pay the equivalent of $1,000 per TSA employee over the course of the year.
TSA’s new $50-million one-year uniform contract was announced just two days before the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, took effect.
The TSA provides uniforms to new employees, but requires its employees to buy their own replacements.
“You will be measured for your new uniforms at your first orientation session,” the fact sheet says. “TSA will provide your initial uniform issue consisting of 3 long sleeve shirts, 3 short sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 ties, and one belt, sweater, socks, and jacket.”
The TSA says its officers are responsible for providing their own black leather shoes with non-slip soles to wear with their uniform. The TSA may authorize an annual uniform allowance for officers to assist with uniform replacement expenses but officers will be responsible for cleaning, maintaining, and replacing worn uniforms.
So, at least the TSA’s move will create some jobs here, right, since VF Imagewear is an American company?
Well, maybe, but maybe not.
In a statement to CNS News, the TSA said that the uniforms will actually be manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico. So, at the taxpayers’ expense, money will likely be given to Mexico to manufacture thousands of new uniforms supposedly at a time when budget cuts threaten the viability of the TSA, DHS and the government in general.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the TSA is required to procure uniforms made in the United States. However, uniform products made in Mexico, Canada or Chile must also be considered due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Chilean Free Trade Agreement.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has called on the TSA to make its uniforms in America. According to Speier, VF Imagewear in the past has sewn the TSA uniforms in Mexico, representing roughly 40% of the total cost of producing the uniforms and 80% of the labor.
“Make it in America is a common sense policy,” Speier said in 2011. “When it comes to U.S. government contracts, we have a right to demand that taxpayer dollars are used to create American jobs, not foreign ones.”
I’m not going to call on the TSA to have their uniforms made exclusively in the USA. The TSA is a waste of money, like several agencies in the federal government. Where they manufacture their uniforms is moot. They need to be dismantled. Airport security should be returned to the airports.
Shutting down the TSA would be a “sequester” cut I would support.