In 2009, an Army study found the ACU “offered less effective concealment than the patterns chosen by the Marine Corps and some foreign military services, such as Syria and China,” according to the GAO report.
Meanwhile, soldiers in Afghanistan complained to the late Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), then chair of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee. In a June 2009 report, the House panel directed the Defense Department to take “immediate action” to supply new uniforms.
So, after the U.S. Army had spent billions over several years to outfit its troops, the Army in 2010 began replacing the ACU for the soldiers in Afghanistan, who got a new camouflage pattern that cost $3.4 million to develop and $300 million more last year to procure.
The new Operational Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern is in use, but since 2010 the Army has also been studying “three color variations, desert, woodland and transitional, as future uniform options,” according to the GAO. Army senior leaders will be briefed on the study and development plans, the GAO said.
More important, according to the GAO, if “the Army chooses a new camouflage uniform, officials estimate it may cost up to $4 billion over five years to replace its [current] uniform and related protective gear.”
The fashion story involving camouflage uniforms hardly ends with the Army.
Not so long ago, all the services were wearing what was known as the Army’s Battle Dress and Desert Camouflage uniform. However, since 2002 each service has introduced its own camouflage uniform.
Of course there are Defense Department policies and regulations that encourage the services to coordinate research and testing of such things as uniforms, and even a regulation that promotes standardization in combat clothing to reduce costs, the GAO said.
It was Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones who in 2000 broke away from the pack. He directed that a new camouflage uniform be developed with increased durability and combat utility. The Marines, according to the GAO, spent $319,000 to develop their unique camouflage pattern. They started with 70 patterns and picked one that was created digitally by computer-pixelated shapes rather than the more traditional organic, leaflike ones.
The final pattern was tested in 2001 by 284 Marines who wore the uniform in field operations and in their garrisons. Though 25 percent of them found durability problems such as rips at the knees during training, two-thirds liked its appearance because after laundering the fabric retained “hard creases that were sharp enough for garrison wear.” The old Army combat uniform had to be ironed to get the crease needed for inspections. The Marines also did 20-year life-cycle cost estimates for their own camouflage uniform, which came to roughly $502 million.