Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the US Army is currently looking for a replacement for the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) currently worn by Soldiers in virtually all environments except Afghanistan. Now, after months and months of silence, PEO Soldier has provided an update to the US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort. I know, this thing seems to be going on forever, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The results of the most exhaustive camouflage testing in history will be briefed to the Army Uniform Board on 28 February.
If you’re familiar with how the Army Uniform Board works, they don’t announce their findings directly from the board but rather later, an announcement will be made once the Chief of Staff of the Army gives his approval. Considering the gravity of this decision, the Secretary of the Army will most likely also give his approval. There is precedent for this. When the Army officially announced the adoption of MultiCam for use in Afghanistan as Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP).
We said that this is the most exhaustive camouflage testing in history and since last Summer the Army has been running the four families of patterns along with baseline patterns through the paces in locations that replicate the nine Military Operating Environments. Over the past couple of months sources have told us that testing was curtailed in two locations due to fires and that the Army had to go back and reaccomplish data collection. The Army wants to make sure that the record is complete and that their decision is based on the data. Consequently, we are told that an independent auditor has been used to verify the integrity of the data. No matter the decision, it will be based on facts so there won’t be any second guessing the choice a year or two down the road.
So when will we see a final Army announcement? Sequestration and continuing resolution notwithstanding, the switch for ACUs, the day-to-day uniform of the Army is essentially cost neutral. It’s a matter of altering contracts to procure the new pattern(s) rather than UCP. The real, long-term sunk cost is in the Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment such as the IOTV and MOLLE. It costs more and lasts longer than a uniform. However, we understand the Army has a few concepts up their sleeve to ease the transition. When UCP was fielded it was all in. The Army essentially transitioned everything to UCP in about five years and issued ACUs to each Soldier gratis. I don’t think recapitalization will go so smoothly this time. The US Army officially adopted the woodland camouflage pattern in 1981. The old OD green fatigues could still be worn until September 30 1987. OD field equipment was still being used up until the advent of UCP. Based on budget shortfalls I would expect serving Soldiers will have to purchase new uniforms with their annual clothing allowance and expect a longer transition period than with UCP. Also, don’t expect any changes to the actual cut of the ACU along with the camouflage change. It will be the same uniform but with an entirely new paint job.
In conclusion, I would say that no matter which family of pattern they select; ADS/Cramer, Brookwood, Crye or Kryptek, the Army will announce its decision when it’s good and ready and not a day sooner.