Awhile back, I got word that the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh was going to give the US Army a very welcome birthday present on June 14th, in the form of an announcement of the selection of a new family of camouflage patterns for our Soldiers. I now believe this is not the case.
The first thing that led me to believe that this was not going to actually happen was that the Army still has not notified the contenders of whether or not they were selected. The Army would have needed to do this by the beginning of June, at the very latest, to give the companies time to receive their technical outbriefs and lodge a protest if they felt that the selection was unfair. That didn’t happen. The Secretary still could have announced, but he may have ended up with egg on his face had a protest action been substantiated.
The second thing, or should I say things, that clued me in to the announcement being stalled once again, were sources. Reliable sources (plural) contacted me over the past week and told me that the Army was going to delay the announcement for new camouflage. Some said until next fiscal year, and others mentioned AUSA time frame (both in October).
Now some of you are going to say that the Army’s delay is due to the Enyart Amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act but that’s not it. In fact, the delay is in spite of it. If anything, it should have lit a fire under the Army. For those of you that were off planet last week, the Enyart Amendment was introduced as an amendment to HR 1960 by Rep William Enyart (D-IL) who happens to also be a Retired Major General and former State Adjutant General of the Illinois Army National Guard. In a nutshell, it requires all US military services to adopt a common camouflage uniform by 2018. At the time, I opposed the notion that Congress should tell the military how to dress. But if the Army has in fact, delayed the announcement of their selection and subsequent fielding, then I was wrong. It looks like the Army’s leadership is letting its troops down and Congress needs to step in and force them to reprioritize. The top priority should be the Soldier.
The reason I was given for the delay in announcement is laughable. Once again, this comes from sources (plural). I am told that the Army does not want to face negative perception by starting a new acquisition during sequestration. Seriously. That’s what I was told. Apparently, Congressional interest in camouflage isn’t enough. Apparently, negative press from the main stream media for issuing an ineffective camouflage pattern isn’t enough. Apparently, wasting money by continuing to purchase camouflage it will have to replace after the announcement isn’t enough. And apparently, disgruntled troops who have to deploy in the poorly named Universal Camouflage Pattern isn’t enough. Negative perception they’ve got. What the Army needs is some positive perception. And they aren’t going to get that by wasting money and continuing to place their most precious asset; the Soldier, at risk.
I ignored the recent media blitz by the main stream media because I knew that the Army was working to correct the problem and field a real solution. And, with a 14 June announcement, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Now it seems like that light of hope has been extinguished. The Army has acknowledged that UCP is ineffective. Yet, it will continue to purchase, field and use it for the foreseeable future. Last time I checked, inaction was not a course of action.
While the final decision and announcement sits with the Office of the Secretary of the Army, I’m not giving GEN Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army or SMA Raymond F. Chandler III a free pass. The Honorable Mr McHugh is a civilian political appointee. He just isn’t going to have the connection to the troops that they do, or the same moral imperative to do right by them. I know the CSA and SMA are good men and are the Army’s true leaders. They should show some leadership and get this taken care of. Morale is sinking. Showing some interest in the Soldier by fixing the uniform is a great way to show them that they matter. The Army uniform identifies a Soldier on multiple levels. It gives the Soldier his own connection to the Army and it displays who he is to everyone else. And, it can make a serious difference where it really matters. A proper camouflage will him more effective on the battlefield.
I realize that this decision is budget driven but there’s more to running an Army than dollar signs. Even then, this delay is pound foolish. The longer the Army delays, the more it buys what it doesn’t need.
I did try to reach the Secretary of the Army’s Public Affairs Office prior to writing this story and actually held off publishing it in the hopes that they would come through and return my calls. They didn’t. In what seems to be status quo for this Administration, regardless of department, the Secretary of the Army ignores requests for information, no matter who asks. I get it. If Congress can’t get subpoenaed documents and witnesses plead the 5th Amendment, why should I expect them to talk to me?
We all may wake up on Friday morning to Christmas in July. A day filled with unicorns and rainbows, and the announcement of a new family of effective camouflage patterns for the US Army. But then again, don’t hold your breath.