TSA Sealed $50-Million Sequester-Eve Deal to Buy New Uniforms
(CNSNews.com) - The impending 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.
"We are already seeing the effect on the ports of entry, the big airports for example," Napolitano told Politico on Monday. "Some of them had very long lines this weekend."
"Look people, I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform," Napolitiano said."If you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would. There's only so much we can do with personnel and please don't yell at the customs officers, the TSA officers. They aren't responsible for 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.
This is not the first time VF Imagewear has been commissioned to make TSA uniforms. The company secured a $98 million contract in 2010 that expired on Feb. 17, 2013.
The latest contract will run until Feb. 17, 2014, with a one-year optional transitional period. By next year, the DHS hopes to have TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) secure their uniforms with a single combined contract.
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 cuts, according to CBO, amount to $44 billion in reduced spending in fiscal 2013.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the sequester will force furloughs at the TSA, and has warned of increased waiting times at airports.
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.
In a statement to CNSNews.com, the TSA said the uniforms will be "manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico."
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.
"TSA's contract with VF Imagewear for TSO uniforms, which has some manufacturing facilities in Mexico, complies with the law," the TSA said.
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.”