US Congress and Camo Uniforms: More to the story…

Further details about how it all came about appeared in a story today on Military.com.  An abbreviated version of that story follows:

The move in Congress was prompted by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, who said he was first made aware of the issue during a visit with a group of Ranger NCOs serving at Fort Benning, Ga.

Murtha queried Army leaders and learned the concern was not reserved to a handful of Georgia troops. Similar sentiments had been voiced throughout units with experience serving in Afghanistan.

“The reason is that the current uniform has been primarily designed for a desert combat, like in Iraq, and obviously the terrain is much different in Afghanistan,” Murtha said in an e-mail to Military.com.

“I spoke to both General Casey and General Petraeus about the issue. They also have heard the same thing, said that the Army is looking into the situation, and that funding is available for new uniforms if the Army decides to go that route.”

In the mid-2009 wartime funding bill he inserted unambiguous language to force the Army to examine an alternative to its new combat uniform – at least for Afghanistan deployments.

“Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan have serious concerns about the current combat uniform which they indicate provides ineffective camouflage given the environment in Afghanistan,” the bill states. “The Department of Defense [must take] immediate action to provide combat uniforms to personnel deployed to Afghanistan with a camouflage pattern that is suited to the environment of Afghanistan.”

Congress ordered the Army to provide a report on its progress by Sept. 30.

The ever-popular MultiCam pattern designed by New York-based Crye Precision is gaining some institutional credibility, with Army Special Forces troops donning the pattern in certain operations in Afghanistan and Air Force pararescuemen wearing a MultiCam “combat system” during a recent deployment to Djibouti.

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But with the Army spending millions to switch to an all-in-one pattern not too long ago, switching to a two-uniform system may be too costly in time and resources.

The Army digital uniform cost approximately $88 when it was first deployed.  Assuming a replacement would cost a comparable amount, the Army would need $35.2 million to re-outfit 40,000 Soldiers in Afghanistan.

[Editor] Military.com’s figures don’t include the cost of matching – or at least complimentary – load carrying gear, body armour, etc.  So, the actual cost would be higher – but then again, the DoD spent about several million on a ridiculous photo shoot of Air Force One over NYC, so surely it can find the cash to outfit the troops better…



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