The military budget for textiles is down this year, but experts say the need for innovative products will continue to drive the market. Industry news site, Advanced Textile Source, recently posted an article exploring these changes.
Let’s start with the money. The procurement budget of the Defense Logistics Agency for the fiscal year 2017 has been set at $1.8 Billion with a 3.8 percent drop in acquisition funding compared with FY 2016, the article said. Money not allocated for weapons purchasing goes to applied research & development efforts, known as RDT&E. This chunk of the budget impacts textile manufacturers, and it’s declining by 28 percent, a report by Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst, explained.
That may seem like a substantial loss, but the military continues to seek new kinds of textiles, opening the doors for innovation. Thanks to previous wars, some services have an inventory surplus and don’t need the same products, Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist for the Army, explained.
Apparel made for extreme conditions, such as the Arctic and the jungle are now in greater demand. The Army also has a heightened interest in chembio suits, and there is funding available for research and development, Mary Lynn Landgraf, senior international trade specialist at the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, noted.
The Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), an organization connecting industry, academia, and government in the smart fabric revolution, recently launched. Their immediate goals include building a network of fabric innovators in defense and commercial applications.
Lobbyists from the United States Industrial Fabrics Institute and the Narrow Fabrics Institute recently met with federal officials to ensure enforcement of the Barry Amendment, an act encouraging the military to prioritize U.S. products. The meeting addressed concerns over maintaining the Amendment’s purchasing threshold at $150,000, eliminating a loophole that allowed the purchase of athletic sneakers sourced from overseas, and clarify language around a subset of textiles and apparel.
The lesson, as always, is that industry must continue to innovate. Successful companies, it seems, will need to develop products capable of serving consumers as well as defense.
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