U.S. Airman Got the Boot for Pointing Out that his Boots Were Made in China
Master Sergeant Steven Adachi became the center of a military controversy and a congressional investigation because he refused to put his boots on.
Prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Adachi—an Air Force reservist based in Hawaii—was given a pair of sage green boots by his unit, which, he discovered, were made in China. He complained, got another pair made in China, complained some more, and asked for boots made in the U.S.
He says he was told that it was impossible to get U.S.-made boots.
Eventually, the Air Force reprimanded Adachi, and he now faces administrative demotion or termination of his position in the military.
Congressional investigators are probing the matter with the Air Force, as is the inspector general for the military. A bipartisan inquiry is seeking to determine if Adachi, who has a 32-year career (pdf) in the armed forces, was retaliated against for being a whistleblower.
Although Adachi has no doubt that he has been the target of whistleblower retaliation, three letters of reprimand that he received only cited a four-year-old civilian harassment misdemeanor that he brought to his superiors’ attention during the course of this case.
The Air Force later admitted that its acquisition of the boots Adachi was given violated the 1933 Buy American Act (pdf) because the boots were only allowed for use in the U.S. and not overseas.
Adachi said that his reason for insisting on the U.S.-made boots, and standing by the 1933 law, is a good one. “How many American workers are unemployed because military clothing is being produced in foreign countries?" he wrote in a letter to the Air Force Times. “I did not feel comfortable ‘going to war' wearing boots made in China. This is about patriotism. This is about following the [law] set forth over 60 years ago. This is about American soldiers wearing our country's uniform made by Americans.”
The Defense Logistics Agency, which provides all supplies to U.S. troops, claims that the boots it issues to the military are all American-made. However, Adachi’s unit had purchased Chinese-made boots from a South Carolina supplier, U.S. Patriot, which boasts that its imported footwear is lighter and less expensive than the U.S. product.
Learning of the Adachi controversy, the company offered to exchange the sergeant’s Chinese boots for an American pair. “Once I receive these boots, I believe this to be a victory," Adachi said in an email to the Times.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Adachi’s Air Force unit pulled its entire inventory of the Chinese-made boots and sent them back to the vendor.
-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
U.S. Airman Denied American-Made Boots (by Andrew Wyner, Project On Government Oversight)
Master Sgt. Says No to Chinese-Made Boots (by Jeff Scholgol, Air Force Times)
Steven M. Adachi, Curriculum Vitae (American Society of Safety Engineers) (pdf)
Army Gives Up on $5 Billion Camouflage Uniforms (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Air Force Gives in to Whistleblower Mechanic who Protested Shoddy Upkeep of Spy Planes (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Army Redesigns Camouflage Uniforms for Afghanistan Terrain (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Construction Industry Opposes Obama “Buy American” Stimulus Plan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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