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Report Slams Military's Recent Camouflage Uniforms

Sep 28, 2012

Military.com| by Michael Hoffman and Matthew Cox

A government watchdog issued a scathing report Friday blasting the U.S. military for the way it has developed camouflage uniforms over the past decade, putting troops at risk and wasting millions of dollars.

The Government Accountability Office picked out the Air Force and Army as extreme offenders among the services lambasting their development of the Airman Battle Uniform in 2002 and the Army Combat Uniform in 2003.

Each service has developed its own camouflage uniform over the past ten years. Military service leaders have introduced seven new patterns -- two desert, two woodland and three universal -- since 2002.

GAO officials urged Defense Department leaders to work together and avoid the "fragmented approach" the different services have used in the past.

GAO investigators issued their report four months before Army leaders plan to pick out a new family of camouflage soldiers. The Army launched its massive camouflage improvement plan in 2009 when its pixilated Universal Camouflage Pattern came under scrutiny from soldiers, lawmakers and the Army test community.

Two studies conducted by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center -- one completed in 2009 and the other in 2006, showed that the UCP performed poorly when compared to multiple camouflage patterns such as the Marine Corps desert pattern and MultiCam.

In June 2009, Pennsylvania's Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who was then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, got involved in camouflage issue. Murtha pushed the service to look for a better camouflage pattern after receiving complaints from sergeants about the UCP's poor performance in the war zone.

Murtha died in 2010, but his directive prompted the Army to launch a multi-phase camouflage effort. Many patterns were evaluated in Afghanistan, but MultiCam was the clear winner for the country's multi-terrain environment.

Critics allege that the Army has wasted $5 billion on uniforms and equipment all printed in the inadequate UCP. The GAO estimates that the Army will have to spend another $4 billion on uniforms and equipment over the next five years when it selects its new family of camouflage patterns.

The GAO maintains that the Army stands to save $82 million if it can partner with another service. Air Force leaders have shown interest in the Army's camouflage development efforts, but have not signed any agreements to update the ABU with the Army, GAO officials said.

Defense Department leaders have failed to require services to "collaborate and standardize the development and introduction of camouflage uniforms" causing the military to potentially "forego millions of dollars in potential cost savings," GAO wrote.

Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan wearing the Army's Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP) the Pentagon started fielding in July 2010. While considered extremely effective, the OCP cost $3.4 million to develop. Airmen also deploy wearing the OCP after Air Force studies found the ABU to be ineffective in combat environments.

Marines still wear the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform the service started fielding in June 2002. The Corps spent $319,000 to develop the MCCCU uniform -- significantly less than the Army and Air Force, which spent $3.2 million on the ACU and $3.1 million on the ABU respectively.

All four services universally wore the Army Battle Dress and Desert Camouflage patterns before the Corps introduced their own pattern and branded the Corps symbol into it. The Corps' initiative left Army, Air Force, and later Navy leaders scrambling to provide their troops service-specific camouflage patterns.

The report did not address the Navy's blue working uniform, which is referred to by troops as "aquaflage."

In 2010, Congress "required the military departments to establish joint requirements for future ground combat uniforms" to better protect troops and save the Pentagon money. Thus far GAO investigators found the Defense Department has failed to follow through.

The GAO commended the Marine Corps for using "credible, reliable, and timely data" to choose their camouflage pattern and implementing it "using clear policies and procedures." The Army and Air Force failed to do the same when it developed the ACU and ABU causing their uniforms to "not meet mission requirements" and forced the services to replace them.

Notably, the Army instituted a camouflage study that compared 13 different patterns. However, Army leaders picked the universal ACU pattern and colors without ever finishing the study. Comparably, the Marine Corps studied 70 potential patterns before picking the Marine Corps Pattern.

Leaders from the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier could not even provide a performance report to explain their selection or explain how the patter was developed despite the $3.2 million price tag, according to GAO's report.

A 2009 internal Army study found the ACU camouflage pattern failed to conceal troops as well as the Marine pattern or the uniforms of foreign armies to include China and Syria, GAO wrote.

The ACU pattern that was designed for urban environments left soldiers unconcealed in Afghanistan forcing the Army to rush and replace the ACU uniform with the OEF pattern ahead of the Afghanistan surge of forces.

Expediting the development and fielding of a new uniform cost the Army $38 million in 2010 and 2011. For the OEF uniform, the Army sent a "photo simulation team to Afghanistan to collect environmental data," according to the GAO report.

PEO Soldiers officials told GAO investigators that unlike the process to pick the ACU pattern, the Army will include a "knowledge-based approach and greater use of DOD policies and procedures to ensure that decisions are informed, science-based, and data driven" for its next camouflage uniform.

Tiger Stripe Uniforms

The Air Force has had its own uniform failings, namely, developing a combat uniform that wasn't built for airmen to wear off base, and one roundly mocked by their sister services.

Airmen immediately complained about the heavy fabric and the tiger-stripe pattern of the ABU when it was fielded in 2007. A 2006 study by the Air Warfare Center found the ABU was "not an effective combat uniform due to trouser fit, heat buildup, and other concerns," according to the report.

In the majority of camouflage pattern tests, raters judged the "ABU as marginal or unsatisfactory for concealment 58 percent of the time," according to the report.

The wave of complaints forced the Air Force to order new ABUs for airmen with lighter weight material at a high cost to the service.

"If Air Force officials had expanded the knowledge-based approach for selecting a uniform-such as by ordering extensive testing and evaluation of varying fabric weights for comfortable wear to support the decision process-the service may have avoided the need to replace uniforms with a lighter weight fabric," according to the GAO report.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
In other news for uniforms pertaining to the US Army, the new Army Service Uniforms that currently has being issued to new IET soldiers and required to be obtained by the end of Fiscal Year 2013 might be going away as well....the madness never ends with the Army and its uniform mess; first the beret (replaced the Patrol Cap and then gone back to the Patrol Cap), then ACUs (getting a new camo pattern to replace the ineffective pattern chosen), now the ASUs (what's wrong with the old Class As? Nothing, but that's change it anyway. Why? Jeez). At least when the Marines switch they get it right on the first shot - One Shot, One Kill. 'Nuff said.
 

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It could have all been avoided if the Marines hadn't taken their ball and gone home. Still do not understand the fiscal irresponsibility of the DoD in not forcing the USMC to allow other services to use the MARPAT pattern. I understand the Marine Corps has very little it can hang its hat on since it is always being given technology hand-me-downs (Can you say Cobra attack helicopte) from the other services. MARPAT was one element the Corps could call its own, but in the interest of the taxpayer and the good of the nation, it could have shared the pattern. It's not like they paid for it... you and I did. Playing parochial games with tax dollars is not fiscally responsible.

That being said, we will probably see more and more money thrown at a piecemeal approach at rectifying the ills of the UCP. And given the fact that the DoD stands to lose another half trillion (500 billion) dollars in funding from the sequester mandate if Congress doesn't fund sufficient cuts in the federal budget by January 1 to offset the Budget Control Acts's debt ceiling target, there could be even less money to develop a new pattern. DoD already lost $487 billion to sequestration back in the summer when Congress failed to find the matching dollars to the debt ceiling increase.

Time for the SECDEF and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to show some leadership and stop intra service squabbling for the sake of the taxpayer and the ever-ballooning debt. MARPAT for everyone!!!

:D
 

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A Stickler for Accuracy
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Yes, the Corps could have been grownups from the outset and returned the favor of allowing the other services to use the camoflage pattern that they developed. They still can, as a matter of fact. Sadly, I don't see that happening.
 

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Yeah, blame it all on the MC! No way no how the Army couldn't have done any better than what they did!
I don't really understand this statement, and I don't think there was a point being put forth that the marines are of less value than the Army. The point being made as I understand it, is that the Marine Corps very childishly refused to share a pattern that in reality could have saved many Army, AF, Navy lives if the pattern works so well and was shared with the other branches. Any Infantrymen (Marine or Army) also knows that the "U" in a SALUTE report is for uniform used to discern what units the enemy is observing, as to why we have a uniform for every branch is beyond me in the first place. I also agree with the fact that many high ranking officials should be forced to answer for fraud/waste abuse when it comes to funds wasted on the ACU pattern.
 

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True MARPAT has the EGA on it anyway so why would any other service want to wear it? Just copy the digital pattern, colors, remove the EGA and all is well. It makes a lot more sense than the USAF repeating the mistake of the first generation BDU by procuring a uniform that is too hot and the Navy thinking the needed a blue cammo pattern.
 

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A Stickler for Accuracy
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Yeah, blame it all on the MC! No way no how the Army couldn't have done any better than what they did!
Not placing any blame, just stating facts. Here are some more:

Fact: The Corps developed what they considered a superior camoflage pattern and uniform.
Fact: The Corps made the decision to keep their pattern and uniform for their own use.
Fact: The Army has, in the past, developed camoflage patterns and uniforms and shared them with all of the services, to include the Corps.
Fact: A service specific camoflage pattern and uniform for each branch not only adds to the cost outlay by the DOD, and the size and complexity of logistics train across the DOD, it also directly impacts the safety of the entire US Armed Forces. Remember that every armed force in the world uses the type of uniform worn to identify the unit they are observing when making reports to higher. The MC, from the Commandant on down chose to ignore that fact in order to acquire a uniform that made them feel special.
Fact: If the Corps decided to allow the rest of the services to use their camoflage pattern and uniform, the entire US Armed Forces, to include the USMC would be better off.

EDIT: I didn't see Evan's (Punsher 2-2) post before I made this one. I concur with his entire post.
 

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Civilian authority could have and should have stepped in like they did in the mid/late 1980's with everyone wearing BDU's, enough said.
 

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From a civilian point of view, I see the issue as well above inter-service problems that may exist. This seems like a problem as old as war, with money and connections at it's core. If "In war, truth is the first casualty", then surely the best interest of the common soldier is a close second. Too often, the provision of proper tools to do the job is left in the wrong hands, lacks proper oversight, and seems to only happen after losses and outrage.
 

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If I recall, I said this a long time ago. When I was assigned to the Pentagon and I saw the Army in their uniform that camouflaged against nothing. The Marine would not share theirs and the Air Force had to have the Army color, but in at digital tiger stripe. Meanwhile the Navy greats a blue working uniform and then creates two other uniforms. Just go with multicam and call it a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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It could have all been avoided if the Marines hadn't taken their ball and gone home. Still do not understand the fiscal irresponsibility of the DoD in not forcing the USMC to allow other services to use the MARPAT pattern. I understand the Marine Corps has very little it can hang its hat on since it is always being given technology hand-me-downs (Can you say Cobra attack helicopte) from the other services. MARPAT was one element the Corps could call its own, but in the interest of the taxpayer and the good of the nation, it could have shared the pattern. It's not like they paid for it... you and I did. Playing parochial games with tax dollars is not fiscally responsible.

That being said, we will probably see more and more money thrown at a piecemeal approach at rectifying the ills of the UCP. And given the fact that the DoD stands to lose another half trillion (500 billion) dollars in funding from the sequester mandate if Congress doesn't fund sufficient cuts in the federal budget by January 1 to offset the Budget Control Acts's debt ceiling target, there could be even less money to develop a new pattern. DoD already lost $487 billion to sequestration back in the summer when Congress failed to find the matching dollars to the debt ceiling increase.

Time for the SECDEF and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to show some leadership and stop intra service squabbling for the sake of the taxpayer and the ever-ballooning debt. MARPAT for everyone!!!

:D
Yes, the Corps could have been grownups from the outset and returned the favor of allowing the other services to use the camoflage pattern that they developed. They still can, as a matter of fact. Sadly, I don't see that happening.
I don't really understand this statement, and I don't think there was a point being put forth that the marines are of less value than the Army. The point being made as I understand it, is that the Marine Corps very childishly refused to share a pattern that in reality could have saved many Army, AF, Navy lives if the pattern works so well and was shared with the other branches. Any Infantrymen (Marine or Army) also knows that the "U" in a SALUTE report is for uniform used to discern what units the enemy is observing, as to why we have a uniform for every branch is beyond me in the first place. I also agree with the fact that many high ranking officials should be forced to answer for fraud/waste abuse when it comes to funds wasted on the ACU pattern.
Don't blame the Marines. Remember, the Army did the research on digital camo and decided to forward the information to Canada. The Army had first shot at making a digital camo. Then they made the mistake believing one pattern ( in shades of grey) would work in all environments. There was nothing stoping the Army from playing with UCP colors and making a pattern simillar to MARPAT. Georgia and the Greek Navy wear a pattern that looks very similar to MARPAT. The Navy played with colors and made the woodland and desert AOR. The problem is that the decision makers in the Army don't worry about the fiscal consequences of their actions. The Marines putting a patent on MARPAT has nothing to do with all the other uniform changes the other services have implimented. If the Marines hadn't developed MARPAT, all the services would most likely have been forced to follow the Army in using UCP.
 

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A Stickler for Accuracy
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Don't blame the Marines. Remember, the Army did the research on digital camo and decided to forward the information to Canada. The Army had first shot at making a digital camo. Then they made the mistake believing one pattern ( in shades of grey) would work in all environments. There was nothing stoping the Army from playing with UCP colors and making a pattern simillar to MARPAT. Georgia and the Greek Navy wear a pattern that looks very similar to MARPAT. The Navy played with colors and made the woodland and desert AOR. The problem is that the decision makers in the Army don't worry about the fiscal consequences of their actions. The Marines putting a patent on MARPAT has nothing to do with all the other uniform changes the other services have implimented. If the Marines hadn't developed MARPAT, all the services would most likely have been forced to follow the Army in using UCP.
blackrazor, you left out this post of mine:

Not placing any blame, just stating facts. Here are some more:

Fact: The Corps developed what they considered a superior camoflage pattern and uniform.
Fact: The Corps made the decision to keep their pattern and uniform for their own use.
Fact: The Army has, in the past, developed camoflage patterns and uniforms and shared them with all of the services, to include the Corps.
Fact: A service specific camoflage pattern and uniform for each branch not only adds to the cost outlay by the DOD, and the size and complexity of logistics train across the DOD, it also directly impacts the safety of the entire US Armed Forces. Remember that every armed force in the world uses the type of uniform worn to identify the unit they are observing when making reports to higher. The MC, from the Commandant on down chose to ignore that fact in order to acquire a uniform that made them feel special.
Fact: If the Corps decided to allow the rest of the services to use their camoflage pattern and uniform, the entire US Armed Forces, to include the USMC would be better off.

EDIT: I didn't see Evan's (Punsher 2-2) post before I made this one. I concur with his entire post.


Now, if you want to place blame (your word, not mine) for the current camoflage situation in the DOD, it definitely lies with the USMC. Do you agree that, based on the input in this thread from actual users of the various patterns that a single camoflage patern for US Forces would be preferable to the multiple camoflage patterns used by the various services, and would, in fact make our fighting men and women safer due to the points made about intel gathering ?
 

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Now, if you want to place blame (your word, not mine) for the current camoflage situation in the DOD, it definitely lies with the USMC. Do you agree that, based on the input in this thread from actual users of the various patterns that a single camoflage patern for US Forces would be preferable to the multiple camoflage patterns used by the various services, and would, in fact make our fighting men and women safer due to the points made about intel gathering ?

Blame the Marines....Why would the other services want a uniform with the EGA on it?!?!? I don't think there was a single Marine sitting in an Army office when ACU was selected and their input was..."Oh yeah, that's a great multi-use pattern right there! Let's spend $3million plus to get it proccured!"
 

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IMO, all that needs to happen here is that the Army takes the patterns that the Marine Corps went with, remove the Eagle, Globe and Anchor from the pattern, institute their own emblem in it's place if so desired and call it a day. IMO, the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force need to be wearing the exact same color patterns. There is no need for different services wearing different uniforms when in a combat theater. There should be a desert pattern, woodland/jungle patterns and perhaps a third pattern if the need arises. The taxpayers do not need this headache, the military does not need this headache. We need to go back to the days where all services wore the same pattern. It will make it much easier for all involved to be equipped.

This is coming from a Marine Veteran.

With looming budget cuts the military needs to spend its time and money focused on greater threats than that of uniforms.

Jeff
 

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A Stickler for Accuracy
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Now, if you want to place blame (your word, not mine) for the current camoflage situation in the DOD, it definitely lies with the USMC. Do you agree that, based on the input in this thread from actual users of the various patterns that a single camoflage patern for US Forces would be preferable to the multiple camoflage patterns used by the various services, and would, in fact make our fighting men and women safer due to the points made about intel gathering ?

Blame the Marines....Why would the other services want a uniform with the EGA on it?!?!? I don't think there was a single Marine sitting in an Army office when ACU was selected and their input was..."Oh yeah, that's a great multi-use pattern right there! Let's spend $3million plus to get it proccured!"
Easy there, markdrake, don't let emotions cloud your judgement. See the logically made arguments in the above posts. Do you think it makes sense for the different services to have different camoflage uniforms? This doesn't come down to placing blame, hence my paranthetical remarks, it comes down to practicality and the desire to outfit all US forces with the best equipment available.

IMO, all that needs to happen here is that the Army takes the patterns that the Marine Corps went with, remove the Eagle, Globe and Anchor from the pattern, institute their own emblem in it's place if so desired and call it a day. IMO, the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force need to be wearing the exact same color patterns. There is no need for different services wearing different uniforms when in a combat theater. There should be a desert pattern, woodland/jungle patterns and perhaps a third pattern if the need arises. The taxpayers do not need this headache, the military does not need this headache. We need to go back to the days where all services wore the same pattern. It will make it much easier for all involved to be equipped.

This is coming from a Marine Veteran.

With looming budget cuts the military needs to spend its time and money focused on greater threats than that of uniforms.

Jeff
goaltendah, Concur with all. The Army or other services wouldn't even need to replace the EGA in the pattern. CAG was running the MARPAT in a Crye uniform without the EGA before they started to wear Multicam.
 
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