Despite all the press releases and hype, the Trump Administration has utterly failed to buy more American-made products. The military exchanges (i.e. retail stores), the Army Air Force Exchange Service and the Naval Exchange Command, continues to buy the same old imports. About ninety percent of their sales are imports, including their in-house brands.
These military exchanges sell more than $13 billion worth of apparel, toys, sporting goods and other products. AAFES has 2,500 stores. NEXCOM has 300 stores.
AAFES is the oldest and the largest of the Department of Defense's exchange stores. AAFES operates department stores, convenience stores, restaurants, movie theaters and an Internet shopping site to serve soldiers, airmen and their families. In addition to stores in the United States, AAFES has stores on U.S. bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Turkey, South Korea and Japan. AAFES also operates stores for U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in the region.
The President also could have set an example, after his election, by sourcing all of his Trump brand suits, shirts and ties in the United States. Ivanka Trump, now a White House aide, could do the same. All of her clothing is made in China, Vietnam and other countries. She could have it made domestically, in Los Angeles, New York or the Carolinas.
Emails and phone calls to the CEOs of AAFES and NEXCOM have not been successful, even with citations to Trump's official executive orders directing that the Department of Defense buy American-products. One AAFES buyer said, "If we buy American-made we would have to cut out our current suppliers. Our reply, "That's the point. We want to create jobs in the United States."
Military buyers like the benefits bestowed upon them by importers. The Pentagon disclosed that foreign manufacturers of retail goods paid for more than 500 trips, at a cost of about $470,000 for these buyers in one recent year. Their targets included buyers at on-base retail outlets. Among the sponsors: Nike, Skechers, Mattel, and Sony. The Pentagon reported that Nike paid more than $80,000 for U.S. Navy apparel buyers and merchandise managers to take nearly 100 trips. Toy-maker Mattel paid nearly $30,000 for Navy merchandise buyers to take 26 trips, most to view new product lines at the company headquarters in El Segundo, California. Skechers, the shoe company, paid about $17,000 for about 25 trips, and Sony paid about $15,000 for just under 20 trips.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the clothing sold at these U.S. government-owned stores, including AAFES in-house brands Royal Manor, Ponytails and Passports, are all imported from sweatshops located in China, Jordan, Bangladesh and Central America. Workers at these sweatshops are paid as little as 19 cents an hour to toil 60 plus hours a week.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also found that the Chentex factory in Nicaragua---which produces much of the Army and Air Force exchange's private label jeans and denim product---interfered in a wage dispute involving two labor groups, firing the union leaders of one of the groups.
The following are the in-house brands for our military exchanges. All are imported.
- Sweet Reflections (maternity)
- JW -- (Ladies updated)
- Passports -- (Ladies casual)
- Luciano Dante - Ladies career
- Driftaway -- (Ladies sleepwear)
- New Recruits (Maternity)
- R&R Casuals -- (Mens)
- Junction West -- (Mens)
- Ponytails -- (Girls)
- Buzzcuts -- (Boy)
If these military exchanges would buy mostly American-made products we could create 200,000 jobs in the United States.