The Washington Post

House panel approves measure to cut excess camouflage patterns

Brig. Gen. Rich McPhee, left, and Col. John Norwood talk on Feb 8, 2005, while troops from the 48th Infantry Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard receive the new Army Combat Uniform at Fort Stewart , Ga. (Stephen Morton/AP)

A House committee narrowly approved a measure Wednesday requiring all U.S. armed services to share a single kind of camouflage uniform, in place of the 10 camouflage patterns in use now.

The measure, authored by freshman Democrat William Enyart (Ill.), passed the House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 32 to 30. It was added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that sets the military’s budget authority for the coming year.

Those voting “aye” included 27 Democrats, along with five of the committee’s Republican members. One Democrat and 29 Republicans voted against it.

The measure must still be approved by the full GOP-controlled House and the Democratic Senate.

Enyart said he wrote the amendment after reading a Washington Post article which described how the military had shared just two camouflage patterns before 2002. Since then, however, individual services have crafted their own patterns, with varying degrees of success. The repeated efforts to design new camouflage uniforms, and outfit service members with them, have cost millions.

The U.S. military's changing camouflage

Enyart’s measure would require all services to begin using a common camouflage pattern by October 2018. It would allow variations of that pattern for different environments, like a variant for the woods and a variant for the desert.

Between now and 2018, the measure would also bar services from using new camouflage patterns unless they are intended to be shared. The measure allows exceptions for combat in unusual environments and for specialized troops.

“In a time of fiscal constraint, we should cut an abundance of uniforms,” instead of cutting military personnel, Enyart said. He was supported during the committee debate by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who expressed frustration that the problem had not been fixed.

“I hope that this resolves once and for all, the ability for the services to do the things that they need to do,” to use a common camouflage pattern, Wittman said.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a former soldier and Marine, spoke against the amendment.

He echoed an argument made by the Marine Corps: that there is a considerable benefit in allowing Marines and other service members to wear camouflage patterns that set them apart.

“The amount of savings we’re talking about is small relative to the size of the force,” Coffman said, saying that service-specific camouflage patterns foster “esprit d’corps.”

“This is really a morale issue, for our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said.

David A. Fahrenthold covers Congress for the Washington Post. He has been at the Post since 2000, and previously covered (in order) the D.C. police, New England, and the environment.


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