The Department of Defense is now banned from purchasing American flags made in China – or any other foreign country – due to a recent bill passed via the 2014 omnibus appropriations measure.
Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) authored the legislation mandating that the Department of Defense only purchase American-made flags. A Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Thompson deemed it "appalling" that the Department of Defense would allow foreign-made flags to be displayed in military installations.
In his promotion of American-made flags, Thompson specifically called for American manufacturers to increase flag production. Ironically, the explanation for the low domestic output of flags is rooted in patriotism: following 9/11, there was such a demand for American flags that U.S. manufacturers could not respond with an adequate supply. As a result, China began mass producing American flags to meet the demand, eventually securing its rank as the largest supplier of American flags, earning as much as 3.6 million dollars in annual flag sales.
Such will no longer be the case, however, now that Thompson's fervent efforts have come to fruition. In light of this success, Thompson recently commented, "I am proud to have worked to pass this law so that our men and women in uniform never have to fight under a U.S. flag made overseas." Unsurprisingly, his undertakings gained widespread support from other veterans.
The concept of keeping Department of Defense funds within the United States is neither original nor new. Rather, Thompson's bill is an updated version of the Berry Amendment. Passed in 1941, the Berry Amendment prohibited the Department of Defense from purchasing a variety of goods (food, clothing, uniforms, fabrics, steel, tools) made outside of the United States, except in rare circumstances. Similarly, Thompson's bill also allows for policy deviation when exceptional circumstances are shown.
While the new regulation does not apply exclusively to flags (it also prohibits the Department of Defense from purchasing other military products overseas), it does apply exclusively to the Department of Defense. Thompson's original bill, however, purported to mandate much more, applying the directive to all flags purchased by the government, as opposed to the Department of Defense alone. That measure, however, was removed before the bill was signed into law. Thus, federal agencies will be allowed to keep their foreign-made flags, whereas U.S. bases will be forced to exchange their foreign flags for American-made ones.
Such a change in policy will not be free, let alone cheap; American flags bearing a 'Made In China' tag cost significantly lower than their domestically made counterparts. To Thompson and his supporters, however, the reality that the Department of Defense "[will] never again [spend] American tax dollars on a U.S. flag made overseas" is worth it.