WASHINGTON – Army soldiers won't be wearing Chinese-made black berets, after all.
The Pentagon issued a brief statement Tuesday night announcing plans to recall whatever Chinese-made berets have already been delivered and distributed.
"The Army Chief of Staff has determined that U.S. troops shall not wear berets made in China or berets made with Chinese content," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said in a brief statement. "Therefore, I direct the Army and the Defense Logistics Agency to take appropriate action to recall previously distributed berets and dispose of the stock."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki decided last year that all soldiers, except paratroopers and Special Forces soldiers, would wear black berets, beginning June 14, the Army's birthday.
With that deadline set for acquiring 2.6 million berets, the Defense Logistics Agency said it had to use foreign manufacturers along with American suppliers. When word got out that China was among the suppliers -- scheduled to make approximately 600,000 of the berets -- it created a problem among lawmakers who want the Army to buy American. A review was started in March.
Shinseki and other top Pentagon officials were scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Small Business Committee.
For years, only members of elite Ranger commando units have had the right to wear black berets and they objected that widespread use of the headgear would cheapen something they had won through special training.
Shinseki later accepted a Ranger offer to switch from black to tan berets, enabling Rangers to keep an exclusive color.