Soldier, how do your boots fit? Congress wants to know.
An draft of the defense budget bill for Fiscal 2017 contains language ordering a survey of the Army's combat footwear to ensure that soldiers entering the force have boots that fit right.
The readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which released its markup of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act today, expressed concern that women entering the Army in growing numbers may not have appropriate footwear.
The committee cited a report from last year's defense budget bill that directed the office of the Secretary of Defense to study whether the military services were equipping their female members with appropriate and comfortable combat boots.
"Upon review of the study report, the committee notes, with concern, that the Army, the largest service in terms of force structure, is the only service not to design combat footwear using lasts designed specifically for women," the bill reads. "The study report also noted that the Army’s most recent survey questioning whether service members were satisfied with the fit and sizing of combat boots was in 1992."
The committee called for the secretary of the Army to survey at least 2,000 active-duty and reserve female soldiers from a range of "relevant" military occupational specialties about whether they are happy with the "fit, size and performance" of the combat footwear they have been issued. The data, the committee said, should be compared alongside footwear satisfaction rates among male soldiers and among female and male troops from the other U.S. services.
The Army has been in the hunt for better-feeling footwear for awhile. In 2013, complaints of sore feet led the Army's Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass. to conduct tests and research to find a better boot.
While the bill has not yet been passed, the deadline to complete the survey is tight. The bill called for a briefing on the results of the footwear study to the House Armed Services Committee no later than Sept. 1 of this year.