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WASHINGTON -- The ranks of U.S. footwear manufacturers who compete to shod the almost 1.5 million-person U.S. military may be small, but business is booming.
The U.S.-led war in Iraq, now turning into a U.S encampment and rebuilding effort, has generated upward of $46 million in new orders for infantry desert boots and Air Force flyer boots. That's 774,000 pairs, or about as much as a small department store may sell in a season.
More business for domestic footwear producers and their suppliers may be on the way. The newly created Department of Homeland Security -- with U.S. Customs, the Coast Guard and the FBI among the agencies under its 130,000-person wing -- has been turning to domestic producers for its uniform needs, although there was no amount currently available for the size of that business. Legislation is also being proposed by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D., S.C.), requiring DHS to buy American.
By law, the Department of Defense must attempt to buy American first, which helps keep the roughly 12 footwear companies with Pentagon contracts in business and shields the domestic market from low-price foreign competitors.
But scoring a Defense contract is …