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Update on the Congressional Fascination with Camo

Last year we reported that in addition to the Congressionally mandated search for a new camo pattern for Afghanistan, they were also going to add language to the Defense Authorization Act for 2010 that would require the services to begin to work toward a common camouflage pattern as well as combat uniform. That requirement is now section 352 of Public Law 111–84. Last week, the Government Accounting Office released the report below as an interim response.

GAO Report: Observations on DoD’s Ground Combat Uniforms

Additionally, here are some recent comments from the House Armed Services Committee:

Ground combat uniform research and development Section 352 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111–84) established, as a policy of the United States, that the design and fielding of all future ground combat and camouflage utility uniforms of the armed forces may uniquely reflect the identity of the individual military services, provided that the ground combat and camouflage utility uniforms, to the maximum extent practicable:
(1) provide members of every military service an equivalent level of performance, functionality, and protection commensurate with their respective assigned combat missions;
(2) minimize risk to the individual soldier, sailor, airman, or marine operating in the joint battlespace; and
(3) provide interoperability with other components of individual war fighter systems, including body armor and other individual protective systems.

The committee notes that part of the rationale for section 352 of Public Law 111–84 was to reduce the multiple research, design, development, and fielding efforts for military ground combat uniforms being undertaken by the military departments and to improve the overall combat capability of those assigned to ground combat missions.

In an interim response to section 352 of Public Law 111–84, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found no performance standards for specific combat environments, no criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of camouflage patterns, and no requirements for the services to test interoperability between their uniforms and other protective gear. Furthermore, while GAO found some examples of uniform technology being shared across the services, the committee emphasizes the importance of sharing new technologies, advanced materials, and other advances in ground combat uniform design and development between the military services. The committee notes that some of the military departments have used the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center during development of their ground combat uniforms to test the effectiveness of the camouflage, and, in some cases, camouflage effectiveness of ground combat uniforms and protective gear. The committee believes, however, that Natick’s resources could be better utilized for joint research and development. Because of its expertise, the committee urges the services to consider expanding their use of the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center as a center of excellence for uniform research and development to guide their development of camouflage effectiveness and performance criteria and testing.

Additionally, the committee encourages the Secretary of Defense to consider designating an executive agent (EA) to oversee Department of Defense activities related to research and development of ground combat and camouflage utility uniforms. The committee envisions that such an EA would be similar to the functions performed by the executive agent for operation of the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Research and Engineering Program.

Overall, not a whole lot of shocking news here but lots of good costing data has been provided. However, check out the second bullet on slide 33 of the GAO document. A bit of a surprise there. Also, of interest is slide 45 which shows the new Navy Type II and III camo based on the AOR patterns.

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