ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on May 11th, 2013 at 4:47 am

How the US Military Went From Two Camouflage Patterns to Ten In A Decade

» by in: US Military

The Washington Post has a pretty good article about the camouflage issue that is a continuing hot topic in the military:

In 2002, the U.S. military had just two kinds of camouflage uniform. One was green, for the woods. The other was brown, for the desert.

Then things got strange.

Today, there is one camouflage pattern just for Marines in the desert. There is another just for Navy personnel in the desert. The Army has its own “universal” camouflage pattern, which is designed to work anywhere. It also has another one just for Afghanistan, where the first one doesn’t work.

Even the Air Force has its own unique camouflage, used in a new “Airman Battle Uniform.” But it has flaws. So in Afghanistan, airmen are told not to wear it in battle.

In just 11 years, two kinds of camouflage have turned into 10. And a blessedly simple aspect of the U.S. government purchasing system has emerged as a complicated and expensive case study in federal duplication.

Duplication is one of Washington’s most expensive traditions: Multiple agencies do the same job at the same time, and taxpayers pay billions for government to repeat itself.

Now, the habit remains stubbornly hard to break, even in an era of austerity. There are, for instance, 209 federal programs to improve science and math skills. There are 16 programs that all teach personal finance.

At the Pentagon, the odd saga of the multiplying uniforms has provided a step-by-step illustration of how duplication blooms in government — and why it’s usually not good.  [Washington Post]

You can read a lot more at the link, but this topic has long been discussed here at the ROK Drop.  Testing and the eventual fielding of the ACU cost the Army $5 billion and it was obvious from the beginning that it was an inferior design to the Marines’ MARPAT.  The fiscally prudent thing to do would be to take off the globe and anchors on the MARPAT and make it a military wide uniform despite Marine objections.  Since this is not happening this should and the Pentagon still has enough money to play uniform games, this should be seen as a sign that the sequester is not as bad as advertised.  Likewise for the rest of the government that keeps all their multiple agencies doing the same job despite the sequester.

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  • Bobby Ray
    5:32 am on May 11th, 2013 1

    Hey GI that sequester thing was just a trick of some sort. The memo said to cut programs the public would feel the most. Them white house tours and air traffic controllers and the like. They aint cutting none of them programs that nobody will notice cause if nobody notices they might start asking why they were there to begin with. Old Bobby Ray’s law is “The amount of waste will expand to whatever the budget is.” I bet somebody else said it lots more clever.

  • DaveB
    6:38 am on May 11th, 2013 2

    As an old Navy guy, when I first saw the onboard Navy camo all I could think of was that this was the absolute STUPIDIST idea ever. I was on subs, so it really didn’t matter what we wore, but if you are on a carrier, blending in to the water background isn’t a great idea. The enemy isn’t looking for the little 6′ tall sailor, they are looking at the 200′ high, 1,100 foot long gargantuan. Fall off a ship and you want to make it easy for someone to find you, not the other way around. Finally, polyester blend. Yes it might dry quickly, but it is also hot and must be so comfy on a flight deck.

    As to those who really need the camo (ie everyone who is doing anything on the ground) then I can see a couple of different color combos and patterns, but to simply have the same colors but one is pixelated and one is smooth, that is stupid. The eye doesn’t distinguish that much detail very far away. Just another way to waste money.

    And while I’m on this rant. When my daughter graduated from BCT we went over to the PX, she wanted to buy some stuff. I found a neat BLACK SOF backpack (I do video documentaries) and it looked perfect for carrying my gear. I think the price was about $50. She got the exact same backpack, except it was camo and it cost $120. Other than the color, it is absolutely identical. Now, the black one is probably produced in fewer numbers, so that should make it more expensive. But to charge more than double the cost because something is camo is simply a way to rip off our service members.

    I will now step down from my soap box and return to our regularly scheduled program.


  • Liz
    6:42 am on May 11th, 2013 3

    Our system is so screwed up. A five year old can see the problem, but the nature of government bureaucracy makes it next to impossible to feasibly tackle in the real world. Imagine the voice of reason leader who attempts to cut the superfluous programs. They exist because someone, somewhere along the line decided something had to be done/they weren’t doing enough and/or wanted to say they were doing something to earn votes/promotion/political points/et al.

    Though apparently (I’ve been told) I’m a broken record who doesn’t make sense…I’ll just repeat that this reminds me very much of the SAPR (sexual assault prevention and response) program with the military. The DOD has a large overseeing SAPRO, and each branch within the military has it’s own version of SAPR under it. Each base trains numerous people to deal with the issue and each and every military member is required to take sexual assault prevention classes annually. And then one more idiot officer grabs a woman’s breast in the parking lot and this is a matter of national headline news. The president of the United States is making statements about the matter and representatives call for change because the problem is so awful it “makes them sick”. Inevitably this results in more and more “oversight” and extra costly investigations and further costly redundant programs to oversee those redundant programs. Any naysayers beware, they’re just “part of the problem” and “support military rape culture” via their objections. That is a microcosmic example of what happens with government bureaucracy at large. That is why I find the issue infuriating. It is so perfectly illustrative of The Problem.

    We have a system where eliminating regulations/programs, even the most ridiculous or superfluous ones, is next to impossible because no one wants to suffer the consequences for making that change….and even if they do, their boss might not and if he doesn’t his boss might not…and so on. And there’s the whole bureaucratic underlayer that creates more bureaucracy by rewarding it (come up with a new superfluous program and it’s a feather in the promotion cap).

  • Sonagi
    8:54 am on May 11th, 2013 4

    As an old Navy guy, when I first saw the onboard Navy camo all I could think of was that this was the absolute STUPIDIST idea ever. I was on subs, so it really didn’t matter what we wore, but if you are on a carrier, blending in to the water background isn’t a great idea.”

    One does not need to be an old Navy guy to notice how ridiculous mixed blue camo looks on anyone but a fashion-conscious teenager.

  • Bruce K. Nivens
    3:54 pm on May 11th, 2013 5

    I need to go back to see Korea to see what it looks like now that the landscape has gone digital. When I was stationed there in the mid-80s, everything was still analog. :mrgreen: The woodland camouflage BDUs we had back then looked and worked just fine.

  • KingKitty
    7:34 pm on May 11th, 2013 6

    Well the good news is I think the AirForce when from 18 diffrent kinds of head gear down to 8 in a matter of three years…now this is progress!!! I think even Tom (LIZ) would agree to this.

    So Tom I have a question for you….When you post as “LIZ” do you also dress the part?

    Just wondering

  • Bob
    9:46 pm on May 11th, 2013 7

    Were any of you complaining about how bloated the military budget was when the president was a Republican?

  • DunkinDokdo
    11:54 pm on May 11th, 2013 8

    I want that plastic foliage camo that the norks wear. Damn near impossible to see them in any kind of lounge situation.

  • Liz
    5:23 am on May 12th, 2013 9

    #7: The military budget isn’t bloated now, just incredibly inefficient and it has always been so, but the ineffeciencies have a cascading effect. On the one end we’re literally asking soldiers to bring toilet paper from home or try to limit themselves to crapping at the home only to limit the drain on tp supply at the office, on the other they fund programs to investigate new PT outfits, or the suede green pilot boot for that.

    Remember the body armor issue? Our forces were wearing the world’s best, in fact the best our forces had ever used, but another type had just come into existence that was better, so the current type was heralded as downright dangerous to the troops by the media. Okay, they got that better body armor out (though it was heavier) and then the pundits called for dragonskin (which was actually faulty), but no, NBC and a couple of Congresspeople want the test results. So they funded another study for that, after which it was disgarded (and every insurgent then got to look at the body armor analysis and find its faults, too).

    It also happened with vehicle armor. Congress and the press demanded “every vehicle armored in Iraq”. Sounded like a great goal, but in reality a vehicle that never leaves the base does not need armor. But, they had to fill a PR hole so they armored everything to include even FOBBIT mobiles, a wasted expense that could have been used on more necessary items. Then they decided that the vehicle armor wasn’t safe enough because a large enough bomb could still blow it up. Well, yes, but the cost of making every vehicle into an impenatrable fortress would be….impossible. And so on.

  • KingKitty
    6:30 am on May 12th, 2013 10

    Tom (Liz) certainly a long post for you…are you dressing the part today?

  • 2ID Doc
    7:14 am on May 12th, 2013 11

    The very reason, according to a recent USMC vet I met, that the Marines put the globe & anchor in their camo was they knew it was better than what the other services had and if someone decided to “aquire” it the Marines would raise hell over it. I doubt that the Marines will ever give up their camo, short of an order from SecNav and I don’t see that happening.

    4:58 pm on May 12th, 2013 12

    Maybe we can get G.I. Joe to give us some of that virtual camouflage?

  • Setnaffa
    4:56 pm on May 13th, 2013 13

    Just sayin’…

    We won WW2 without a separate Air Force (i.e., it was still the US Army Air Corps) or fancy expensive camouflage with velcro pockets…

    Have we been that successful since we decided to fight half-assed war efforts?

  • Smokes
    5:18 pm on May 13th, 2013 14

    We also won with M1′s, Shermans, propeller-driven aircraft, among other things so we should go back to that too? Force modernization is a requirement but it needs to be done with temperance.

    The war efforts aren’t half-assed. The military has done its job and subjugated enemy forces to the best of its ability. Don’t lay the inefficiencies of the State Department at DoD’s doorstep.

  • JoeC
    5:57 pm on May 13th, 2013 15

    I bet there is also a lot of politics that makes it hard to kill there programs. Follow the money and I bet you will find some powerful committee chairperson from district where a lot of these uniforms are made.

    Most of the time when I was in, we had two BDU’s. Pretty must the same color patterns but one was summer weight material and the other was a heavy material for winter.

    The whole idea of BDU’s never made much sense to me for the average GI. As if you could predict what kind of terrain and background you will be in when you need to take cover?

    Has anyone noticed combat pilots don’t wear BDUs. Yes, they’ve got a brown flight suit for dessert wear now, but it’s pretty much just the same flight suit. Nothing more fancy than a single color change. And they are truly at risk to find themselves needing to be invisible on the ground behind enemy lines.

    Anyway, this whole subject give me a change to link to the President LBJ Ordering Pants recording.


  • JoeC
    6:08 pm on May 13th, 2013 16

    Oops! My browser fired before I had a chance to do any cursory error corrections. :oops:

  • Setnaffa
    6:36 pm on May 13th, 2013 17

    Granted the men and women on the pointy end give it their best; but the country is annoyed any time they’re brought up. And many of our current “leaders” have famously described our troops as operating “in [a] fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan” (Kerry) or their actions as “done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime” (Durbin). And it’s not just Democrats (many of whom actually did serve, unlike Mitt Romney and all five of his sons).

    If we decided to either go “all-in” to fight wars or else stay out, we wouldn’t have as many wars or as many “dead heroes”–wars wouldn’t last ten years, either. Instead, we have made it possible for 90% of the country to live out their narcissistic fantasies, untouched by actually needing to serve their country while a select few suffer to defend the American dream that Reagan described as “that shining city on a hill”…

    If we successfully separate soldiering out into a separate caste, we will fall to our enemies.

  • someotherguy
    12:56 am on May 15th, 2013 18


    The primary problem is people have a serious misunderstanding on what exactly a Military is for. A Military exists to fight wars through the exercise of violence, it is by definition a violent organization. Politically the threat of violence can be used to extend power into different areas of the globe.

    Now what is a “war”? A war is any open conflict between any two state entities, war’s have beginnings and endings, and for there to be an ending there must be a recognized entity to negotiate with. That’s the catch, you can’t “win” a war on something like “terror / drugs / ect..” because there is no entity to negotiate a peace treaty with.

    Take Afghanistan for example, there were lots of BS political attempts to give a face to the “enemy” and make it look like a singular war but in all honestly it was a “war” against every tribe of people in that region. They had no centrally recognized authority upon which to negotiate a peach treaty with, and without that there could be no end to the “war”. The only way to “win” is to utterly wipe out the enemy and given the asymmetric nature of the environment that would require naplaming / fire bombing every singe town, village or community center in the entire country. Essentially genocide becomes the only solution, and that’s simply not an option. Iraq wasn’t nearly as bad, until we did the absolutely stupidest thing possible, disband and remove the only centrally recognized entity with which to negotiate a peace treaty, their military.

  • Liz
    3:55 am on May 15th, 2013 19

    #15: The USAF did some expensive tweaking with the flight suit a while back though. They tried a design that was more female-friendly. The things were wide around the hips and looked awful so it was discarded pretty quickly.

    They also changed the boots from black to green suede.

  • JoeC
    3:56 am on May 15th, 2013 20


    Just in time to shell out for a book of wisdom from a lead architect of most of that mess. Rumsfeld’s Rules is out now for only $27.99.


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