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Congress fights Navy decision to discontinue sailors’ iconic peacoat

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Original Publication: The Richmond Register, August 02, 2017
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August 03, 2017
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When the late sculptor Stanley Bleifeld designed a bronze statue for the U.S. Naval Memorial in Washington, he depicted a lone sailor warning his hands in the pockets of his peacoat.

Both the statue and the double-breasted coat, with its classic turned up high collar, stand as symbols of the dedication and sacrifice of military service by Navy personnel throughout the nation’s history.

But come October, the peacoat will no longer be considered standard naval uniform issue, a bygone victim of government cost-cutting that has aroused objection from the U.S. companies that make the coat. Taking its place will be an all-weather raincoat with parka.

G. J. Littlewood and Sons Inc. of Philadelphia dies the wool for Navy peacoats, and Sterlingwear, an East Boston company, sews 40,000 of them annually for the Navy. They want Congress to reverse the Navy’s decision and save scores of manufacturing jobs.

“This is affecting employment and local economies,” said Richard Littlewood, fifth generation owner of the Phladelphia company.    

Naval historian Jennifer Daley also lamented the decision as the end of a Navy signature.

“The Navy would essentially be deleting a part of history, a fashion that is strongly identifiable with sailors,” said Daley, a war studies researcher at King’s College London.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee responded by adding language to the defense spending bill requiring the Navy to explain the decision to substitute the raincoat for the peacoat, and to also consider the impact on the nation’s textile manufacturing industry.

The House passed the bill two weeks ago, sending it to the Senate.

But the move has drawn criticism from a government watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense. Vice President Steve Ellis said discontinuing the peacoat has little to do with keeping U.S. jobs and more to do with protecting pork to the affected congressional districts.

The House in 2010 ended the controversial practice of writing earmarks in bills, benefitting specific projects or businesses in the districts of influential lawmakers. Yet, said Ellis, members use the guise of promoting American-made products to steer business to local companies.

Last year, for instance, Ellis’ group criticized a provision in the bill setting defense spending policy, pushed by Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Ma., requiring the defense department to buy only completely U.S, made athletic footwear.

Boston-based New Balance was the only company that qualified.

This year, the group has also criticized a provision by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. requiring the defense department to study buying its tungsten, a hard metal used for things like rocket engine components, only from U.S. companies.

Marino added the provision at the request of a tungsten producer in his Central Pennsylvania district.

“With the moratorium on earmarks, lawmakers are getting more creative in their attempts to circumvent the rules,” Ellis wrote in a recent blog post.

“These ‘Buy America’ provisions are a new form of backdoor earmarking to pick winners and losers,” often times at the expense of taxpayers, he said. 

Original Publication URL: http://www.richmondregister.com/cnhi_network/congress-fights-navy-decision-to-discontinue-sailors-iconic-peacoat/article_fc672f2d-64f4-55da-a37c-b5e1bb79b5e5.html

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