The Pentagon Declares War on China's T-Shirt Factories (Wait, What?)

More

Watch out China, Bangladesh, and Thailand: The United States government wants its T-shirts back. 

NextGov brings us news today that the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- better known as DARPA, the secret science squad who brought us the internet -- has handed out a $1.25 million contract to build a completely computer operated, "unmanned sewing machine." 

The government describes the project as "a numerically controlled sewing machine that tracks fabric movements" and can move items "stitch by stich." The goal is to create "production facilities that produce garments with zero direct labor...." 

If Uncle Sam wants to yank back clothing production from the third world, this is how to do it. American factories compete with cheap foreign labor by using machines to make fewer workers significantly more productive. And as far as factory owners are concerned, the only thing cooler than less labor is no labor. 

The contract has been awarded to SoftWear Automation Inc. Here's how the company describes its ambitions: 

The mission of the company is to allow the cutting and sewing of garments and other sewn items to be a profitable endeavor in the developed world, particularly in the United States. Current economics has resulted in an annual import of sewn items of approximately $100 B per year. SoftWear Automation, Inc. working with various partners intends to convert a labor-intensive industry to one that is capital-intensive. The technology proposed appears to allow cutting and sewing at costs LESS THAN in China. 

I know that if I were a factory owner somewhere in Southeast Asia, I'd be scared. After all, we're talking about the same agency that funded this thing.



Now just imagine if that guy could do crochet.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In