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Army may delay beret change after ordering glitch

Army Rangers will begin wearing a tan beret to set them apart from other Army troops
Army Rangers will begin wearing a tan beret to set them apart from other Army troops  

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What tan color represents

China connection controversy

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army says it will not change its plans to issue all soldiers black berets, but it might have to delay the implementation.

Army troops were supposed to begin wearing the new black berets on June 14, but that is under review because more than 2 million berets were set to be manufactured in China and other countries, said Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff.

Federal law requires the berets to be made in the United States.

Seeking to defuse the battle of the beret, Shinseki on Friday said the elite Rangers unit will be switching colors, trading in their traditional black berets for tan ones.

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The move came after Rangers were outraged by last October's decision that most Army units will begin wearing black berets. The elite Rangers have worn black berets for decades.

At a Pentagon news conference, Shinseki defended his decision for Army troops to wear black berets, saying "change is difficult and this is symbolic in that aspect."

"These decisions are about our excellence as soldiers, our unity as a force, and our values as an institution," the general said. "The black beret remains the most relevant color for wear Army-wide today."

He said he had anticipated backlash among Rangers when he made the announcement in October: "We expected there would be some push back."

What tan color represents

Shinseki said the 75th Ranger Regiment requested they wear a different colored beret to set them apart and the Army approved.

"Now, the Ranger tan beret will continue to symbolize that great regiment and its challenges for the 21st century," he said. "Whatever those challenges are, Rangers will continue to lead the way."

A statement from the 75th Ranger Regiment said the tan color is reminiscent of the numerous beach assaults in the European Theater and the jungle fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It also represents the khaki uniforms worn by Rangers in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Special Forces will continue to wear their distinctive green berets and Airborne Forces will retain their maroon berets, Shinseki said.

Maj. Marcus de Oliveira of Fort Benning, Georgia, told CNN that Rangers throughout the regiment were asked about the new color.

"Most of them were in favor of this change," he said.

China connection controversy

Meanwhile, an entirely new controversy has emerged over beret contracts.

The United States has contracted with seven companies to make 4.8 million berets at a cost of $29 million. But one of those companies, headquartered in Britain, would manufacture the berets in China.

That company is contracted to make 617,936 berets for $4 million, or roughly 13 percent of the entire U.S. contracts.

Shinseki said the contract is under review, but said, "We haven't canceled anything yet."

The contract also has come under scrutiny on Capitol Hill because a "Buy American" provision mandates such goods be manufactured in the United States.

Under the current contracts, the berets would be manufactured in the United States, Canada, Sri Lanka, India and Romania, in addition to China.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-California, sent a letter signed by 79 other House members demanding President Bush review the Defense contracts.

"In its decision to purchase berets from foreign suppliers, the Defense Logistics Agency waived the Berry Amendment, the federal law which requires the Pentagon to buy clothing made in U.S. factories of 100 percent American components," wrote Capps. "We respectfully request that you immediately reconsider the Army's contract."

The black beret will replace the current fold-up "overseas" cap, the saucer-like "service" hat and the brimmed baseball-style cap.



RELATED STORY:
Ex-Ranger walks 750 miles to Washington for beret protest
March 10, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Rangers Web site
U.S. Army
Earned, Not Issued -- The Ranger Black Beret
Army Rangers: 75th Ranger Regiment Association
U.S. Army Special Operations Command: 75th Ranger Regiment
169th Army Rangers Recon Squadren Home Page

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