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Joint Service Camo and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 – Repost

I originally posted this story on 20 December, 2013. It gives you some real background on how Congress fumbled the quest for a camouflage pattern by stripping the deadline out of the legislation in conference committee. Since several articles discussing camouflage have made the rounds recently, I felt it was important to arm SSD readers with some facts.

I keep getting emails from readers with links to stories from other websites with these silly headlines about new legislation blocking the Army’s ability to field new camo. I thought that the best way to put this to bed is to share the actual language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 with you so I asked the folks at Rising Tide if they could provide a copy and they were more than happy to oblige. Read the section in question for yourself and then we’ll discuss.

CJCS visit to Afghanistan

SEC. 352. REVISED POLICY ON GROUND COMBAT AND CAMOUFLAGE UTILITY UNIFORMS.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF POLICY.—It is the policy of the United States that the Secretary of Defense shall eliminate the development and fielding of Armed Force specific combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms in order to adopt and field a common combat and camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms for specific combat environments to be used by all members of the Armed Forces.

(b) PROHIBITION.—Except as provided in subsection

(c), after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of a military department may not adopt any new camouflage pattern design or uniform fabric for any combat or camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms for use by an Armed Force, unless—
(1) the new design or fabric is a combat or camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms that will be adopted by all Armed Forces;
(2) the Secretary adopts a uniform already in use by another Armed Force; or
(3) the Secretary of Defense grants an exception based on unique circumstances or operational requirements.

(c) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in subsection (b) shall be construed as—

(1) prohibiting the development of combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms for use by personnel assigned to or operating in support of the unified combatant command for special operations forces described in section 167 of title 10, United States Code;
(2) prohibiting engineering modifications to existing uniforms that improve the performance of combat and camouflage utility uniforms, including power harnessing or generating textiles, fire resistant fabrics, and anti-vector, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial treatments;
(3) prohibiting the Secretary of a military department from fielding ancillary uniform items, including headwear, footwear, body armor, and any other such items as determined by the Secretary;
(4) prohibiting the Secretary of a military department from issuing vehicle crew uniforms;
(5) prohibiting cosmetic service-specific uniform modifications to include insignia, pocket orientation, closure devices, inserts, and undergarments; or
(6) prohibiting the continued fielding or use of pre-existing service-specific or operation-specific combat uniforms as long as the uniforms continue to meet operational requirements.

(d) REGISTRATION REQUIRED.—The Secretary of a military department shall formally register with the Joint Clothing and Textiles Governance Board all uniforms in use by an Armed Force under the jurisdiction of the Secretary and all such uniforms planned for use by such an Armed Force.

(e) LIMITATION ON RESTRICTION.—The Secretary of a military department may not prevent the Secretary of another military department from authorizing the use of any combat or camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms.

(f) GUIDANCE REQUIRED.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall issue guidance to implement this section.

(2) CONTENT.—At a minimum, the guidance required by paragraph (1) shall require the Secretary of each of the military departments—
(A) in cooperation with the commanders of the combatant commands, including the unified combatant command for special operations forces, to establish, by not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, joint criteria for combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms, which shall be included in all new requirements documents for such uniforms;

(B) to continually work together to assess and develop new technologies that could be incorporated into future combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms to improve war fighter survivability;

(C) to ensure that new combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms meet the geographic and operational requirements of the commanders of the combatant commands; and

(D) to ensure that all new combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms achieve interoperability with all components of individual war fighter systems, including body armor, organizational clothing and individual equipment, and other individual protective systems.

(g) REPEAL OF POLICY.—Section 352 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Public Law 111–84, 123 Stat. 2262; 10 U.S.C. 771 note) is repealed.

Now my comments-

The hope has been that Congress would step in to curb the US military’s number of camouflage patterns from what averages out to about two per service, to a more manageable total of three or less for everybody. I hope you aren’t as underwhelmed as I am with the legislation. Any teeth that the original Enyart Amendment had to bring about any real change, seem to have been yanked from this document.

Having said that, there are a couple of interesting bits. Such as…This section, which halts the Marine Corps’ restriction on sharing MARPAT:

(e) LIMITATION ON RESTRICTION.—The Secretary of a military department may not prevent the Secretary of another military department from authorizing the use of any combat or camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms.

But this section is the free pass that the USMC has been looking for to continue to use MARPAT as long as they want:

Nothing in subsection (b) shall be construed as—
(6) prohibiting the continued fielding or use of pre-existing service-specific or operation-specific combat uniforms as long as the uniforms continue to meet operational requirements.

My take is that this proposed law really does nothing to control the problem. It’s just another watered down version of the language from 2010 that it replaces. There are no deadlines to move to a common uniform or pattern as specified in Rep William Enyart’s (D-IL) (MG, USA NG, Ret) original amendment to the House version of the NDAA; no consequences to continuing on the current path. It’s status quo. Services can continue to use the patterns they already have and can utilize different pocket configurations and even different body armor. It’s the development of new patterns that is at issue and even this can be accomplished so long as it is done so under the banner of jointness. In fact, the language even encourages development of new patterns and technologies.

The real question is how this will affect the Army’s Camouflage Improvement Effort and the USMC’s developmental Transitional MARPAT (yes, you read that right). Not that it really matters. The Army has zero interest in announcing the results of the so-called Phase IV Camo Tests and instead is in the midst of a soft-transition to the Operational Camouflage Pattern (aka Crye Precision’s MultiCam), a currently issued pattern. And so far, no one knows what will come of work being accomplished by NRL on behalf of the Marine Corps.

If you want to know about all of the other defense programs, below is the entire 1105 page NDAA bill. It was recently passed by the House of Representatives and should clear the Senate today. The President is expected to sign it into law before Christmas.

2014 NDAA

Click on image to download .pdf

There’s also some guidance on protective equipment early on in the bill. It’s worth looking at.

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36 Responses to “Joint Service Camo and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 – Repost”

  1. Joe says:

    Sounds great but with the way Congress and procurement works we’ll all be in ACU’s…

    • Riceball says:

      While that would suck it wouldn’t be the end of the world because ACU is just a uniform pattern and not a camouflage pattern and so can be printed up in any color or pattern that anybody wants. Currently the Army uses ACUs in either UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) and OCP aka Multicam but you can buy ACU style uniforms in black and digital woodland and probably a couple of other camo patterns as well.

  2. Lawrence says:

    And meanwhile, the textile industry suffers and more people join the unemployment and food stamps lines….

  3. MK EOD says:

    Decisive leadership like this, from both our military and civilian officials, is undoubtedly why the war in Afghanistan was won so quickly and with such a clear-cut victory for the United States.

    The important thing is, nobody got their apple cart knocked over. No sacred cows were slaughtered. Nobody actually has to do anything. Nobody makes anybody mad. Nobody has to be the bad guy and tell somebody they can’t get what they want.

    Maybe if the Army switches from UCP to Multicam we’ll trim it down to seven camouflage patterns from the eight we currently employ (ten if you count the woodland and desert JSLIST/chemical suits out there).

    It wouldn’t be so bad if they’d all adopt some differently-colored variation of MARPAT/CADPAT/ACU/AOR. Maybe if the Army would’ve adopted the “Transitional” AOR pattern and the Air Force got the woodland and desert like the Navy. Then we’d at least be the same pattern.

    • Chef Rigby says:

      “Decisive leadership like this, from both our military and civilian officials, is undoubtedly why the war in Afghanistan was won so quickly and with such a clear-cut victory for the United States.”

      Thanks for the great laugh

  4. 10thMountainMan says:

    It will all be over soon guys. I just saw the packing list for SLC and it requires I have four sets of ACUs. Seeing as I only have three sets that are not torn, faded, ripped or stained, I am finally going to pony up and get a fresh set at clothing and sales tomorrow. As soon as the charge hits my account the policy authorizing Multicam for wear will be published and this long nightmare will be over.

    Problem solved. Problem staying solved.

    • MK EOD says:

      Ain’t that always the way? I gave up hoping the AF would switch and just bought more ABUs. The old ones almost never wear out, but I wanted to get the lightweights.

      I do wonder about how the Army plans to make the OCP standard, though. The “real” OCP is the flame retardant one. It costs about twice as much as a 50/50 NYCO version. That’d really suck for every soldier to have to pony up for those. And what’s the point? Do you really need an expensive FR uniform in garrison?

      (Of course, one wonders if we really need fatigues/cammies/whatever for a LOT of the stuff we do in garrison. I work in a cubicle every day at MAJCOM-level HQ and ABUs are the uniform of the day. Having originally enlisted before 9/11, this is mind boggling to me sometimes.)

      • LM says:

        I feel horrible for you. Having to wear the ABU. I’m happy though that you finally have access to the ripstop ones, just when it seems that the AF is in the cusp of abandoning it.

      • Sal says:

        Have a seperate combat uniform that’s FR.

        • SSD says:

          Across the board, that is pretty much what we have now. The thing is, what about jungle ops? Or other places where you want camouflage but not FR?

          • b_a says:

            Do you know beforehand if you will need flame protection?
            What if NyCo would be fully repalced by FR-uniforms, would the higher amount of produced garments lower the price significantly?

  5. LM says:

    LOL…

    you’ve got to be kidding me.

    • MK EOD says:

      Nope. You’re hard pressed to see anyone in Blues on an Air Force base these days.

      I can’t say as I blame them. The blues are uncomfortable. The pants are wool and polyester and are cut REALLY snug. If you had to change a tire in them you’d probably ruin them, assuming you didn’t blow the crotch open squatting down.

      I think the uniform change the services really need to jump on is creating a wash & wear daily Service Uniform that looks professional but doesn’t need to be dry cleaned, and make it the uniform of the day for most garrison stuff.

      The Navy is the only one that got this right, with the lower enlisted uniform (black and tan) they have now.

      The AF really needs to bring back Service Khakis and save the blues for special occasions. Tough, stain resistant, like a pair of Dickies work clothes.

      • bloke_from_ohio says:

        If they just put us all in solid color 50/50 NYCO BDU or ACU cut uniforms as a work unjiform it would be cheaper. There are ton of manufacturers that made really cheap solid colored uniforms like I just described. I understand that many of thses outfits are in Asia and not usable for official USG purchases. But solid colors should be cheaper to print or not print domestically. It elliminates a step in the manufacturing proccess. They would be leaps and bounds cheaper than the ABU. It is not like we actually wear these things in combat. OCP can be our OCONUS bomb dropping kit and a solid green or tan set of BDUs would work for home station.

        • SSD says:

          I know it sounds like a good idea to me as well but in the long run it would be more expensive.

        • JEFF says:

          I agree. For garrison use – Ranger Green for Army, Navy Blue for the Navy, Gray or Foilage Green for the Air Force. Then OCP when they (all of them) deploy, give them different style hats for branch pride or whatever you want to call it. It’s not rocket science.

          • SSD says:

            Lots of money there hoss. Maybe one color for garrison and one pattern for combat uniforms?

            • JEFF says:

              It’s gotta be a cost savings over the current camo situation. Going from 8 different camos to 1 camo and 3 (4 if the Corps gets their own color) solid colors. Solid colors are cheaper when compared to any camo.

      • DanW says:

        I wouldn’t mind if they made the dress blues more wash and wear like the Navy has. It’d be good enough for working in an office, and if they just replaced the blues now with a wash and wear type uniform, you wouldn’t have any redundant uniforms. Maybe have a second material of pants for when the service jacket is worn.

      • LM says:

        To be honest, I couldnt care less about dress uniforms. Whoever agreed to the ASU deserves to be tarred and feathered but thats another story.

        But the secretary of defense should tell the marine corps to f–k off, and force all branches to adopt both MARPAT patterns. Even if the cut is different (like the ACU), not to mention the headwear and t shirts, have the same pattern. This is getting ridiculous.

  6. Mike says:

    *sigh*. Just switch to OCP already. Bonus points if they delete additional Velcro off of the uniform (which absolutely won’t happen, I know).

    • LM says:

      and get rid of the velcro on the arms.

      idiocy.

      • SSD says:

        The Velcro on the arms was added because that’s what SOF always had. The idea was to sanitize the uniform for combat. We did it for years.

        • Mike says:

          I have no doubt that sleeve Velcro was useful for SF and the like but (and correct me if I’m wrong) isn’t sanitizing a uniform illegal given the law of war for conventional forces? The only possible use I could see for conventional forces would be during an E&E situation but 1) stitched on insignia can be removed pretty quickly once you pop a stitch or two and 2) honestly, how many conventional folks wearing ACUs ever used the feature for that purpose?
          Instead we ALL have sleeve Velcro (and name tape, rank, etc) adding both added cost to the uniform and patches to boot. Additionally, the longevity of those items is drastically reduced due to the propensity for Velcro to wear out far, far faster than the stitched on equivalents used on the BDUs/ACUs.
          I think Velcro has a place on most tactical gear…just not as a routine fastening device on a general issue duty uniform.

        • USMColddawg says:

          That was the rational but on my three combat tours and numerous times outside the wire; I never sanitized my uniform. Velcro is a waste. I remember when the ACU first came out, we brought huge patches to cover the sleeves and then we were told to DX that idea.

  7. Sal says:

    I’m starting to think the Army never had any intention of adopting the phase IV winner.

  8. Kory Smith says:

    And the circle jerk continues.

  9. Paralus says:

    Watching an epidode of Combat School on the Sportsman’s Channel, enjoying the Canadian camouflage.

    Man, UCP is as ugly as Big Army is incompetent.