After a four-year camouflage review, the United States Army announced last month that it is thinking about unveiling a new camouflage for the army that reflects the current Marine Corps desert woodland combat patterns. The current Army Combat Uniform uses the Universal Camouflage pattern, which is made up of tans, grays, and greens. The current camouflage pattern is supposed to work well across varying terrains, including desert, woodland, and urban environments; however, it may be shortly out of date. The Universal Camouflage pattern has widely been reported as ineffective and the proposed desert and woodland patterns would improve upon a soldier’s invisibility in combat. Despite the reviews, the implementation of the uniform improvement effort has been delayed due to unprecedented defense-spending budgetary cuts. In addition, Congress has been wavering over this change or to do away with service specific camouflage patterns altogether.
The Universal Camouflage pattern, which was put in use in 2004, was later tested in 2006 and 2009, where it did not perform well in a variety of environments. In each testing sample, the MultiCam uniform that was selected in 2010 outperformed the other camouflage patterns.
During the military uniform improvement review, four uniforms were tested for camouflage performance, but there was no definitive winner. All four patterns failed to outperform the diverse test environments. Cry Precision LLC, ADS, Inc., teamed with Hyperstealth, Inc., Brookwood Caompanies Inc., and Krptyek, Inc. to perform the tests. Crye Precision MultiCam uniforms have also been proposed as a candidate, as they were selected back in 2010 during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. According to an army source, the process of moving forward with Multicam has been significantly delayed due to the high price the company is asking for royalties, which is $24.8 million.
In response to the tightened budget and high price of MultiCam uniforms, the U.S. Army has developed alternative plans for improving the pattern. The first alternative involves developing a digital pattern made up of the color scheme used in MultiCam uniforms from 2010 and testing it throughout the country during March 2014. If the testing across the country is successful then it will become the primary new camouflage pattern for garrison, training, and deployment for soldiers in the U.S. Army.
Although the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2014 states that the Pentagon should develop a common pattern for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps by 2018, Congress is skeptical about the cost of the initiative during a time of significant defense spending cuts due to sequestration. Either way, reducing the number of camouflage patterns, which is required in the Act, may help reduce uniform costs in the long-run.
The costs for uniforms increased after the Marine Corps introduced their digital patterns in 2002, which added to the preexisting Army Battle Dress and Desert Camouflage patterns worn by all four services. The dramatic shift by the Marine Corps also pushed the other three services to develop service-specific patterns for uniforms. The current budgetary crisis along with continued testing makes it difficult to have a clear timeline for the implementation of new patterns on uniforms. In the end, the additional testing should help to improve efficiency and reduce cost in the long-term.