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$28 Million Well Spent – A Critique Of The SIGAR Report On Afghanistan National Army Camouflage Uniforms

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Yesterday, the Office of Special Projects of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued a report entitled, “Afghan National Army: DOD may have spent up to 28 million more than needed to procure camouflage uniforms that may be inappropriate for the Afghan environment.” I fully encourage you to read the entire report. It is available for download here.

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It was assuredly written to persuade the reader that the United States Taxpayer had been bilked for over $28 million in excess charges for the purchase of camouflage uniforms for the Afghan National Army, which they also claim weren’t even appropriate for the environment. However, I think this was money well spent, and I’ll tell you why.

First off, the report was written from a 2017 perspective and fails to take into account the situation of 2007, when this whole affair began. For instance, in 2007 the war was in full swing. There was a sense of urgency. Additionally, even by the report’s admission, the fledgling ANA was clothed in a variety of uniform styles and colors. It was an Army made up of former Mujaheddin from a variety of tribes and factions. One of the quickest ways to integrate such a population into a cohesive force is to put them into a common uniform, and that’s precisely what the ANA did.

What’s more, in 2007 there weren’t companies solely focused on developing camouflage patterns, save one. That company is Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp and it is the company the Afghans chose to provide their camouflage. The powers that be, found Hyperstealth online, contacted them, and then chose a camouflage pattern. Their requirements were simple. They wanted to identify themselves and they wanted a distinct identity rather than wearing a uniform also worn by Coalition forces. Additionally, they wanted their pattern to be protected and not available to others, particularly their enemies. By choosing Hyperstealth’s SPEC4CE Forest digital camouflage pattern, they got everything they asked for. Interestingly, the SIGAR report doesn’t discuss that two other elements, the Afghanistan Partner Unit chose the Desert colored Ghostex Kilo-1 pattern and ANCOP chose Hyperstealth’s SPEC4CE Sierra pattern. It only mentions them in passing.

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While the report goes into a great deal of effort to inform the reader that the SPEC4CE Forest pattern was not evaluated, inferring that it doesn’t work in Afghanistan, the report offers no evidence to that conclusion aside from statistics about the percentage of forested areas in country. There’s no actual evidence provided that it doesn’t work. In fact, the report fails to acknowledge that the ANA operates quite a bit at night and the darker colors of the SPEC4CE Forest pattern work well in that environment. It also doesn’t disclose that as a developer of camouflage, Hyperstealth conducts inhouse evaluations of their patterns, rather leading the reader to believe that there is no science behind the pattern. But remember, Hyperstealth has outfitted a number of countries with distinct camouflage patterns and was even selected as a finalist in Phase IV of the US Army’s Camouflage Improvement Effort. No matter how you feel about them, they must be doing something right.

The US Army Soldier Systems Center at Natick, MA provided SIGAR some examples of different camouflage patterns they could have provided to the ANA, instead of adopting the commercially developed Hyperstealth pattern. You can see them here. Notice some are Woodland patterns, which SIGAR declares are inappropriate for Afghanistan. Others still are Urban and even Snow patterns.

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Ironically, the pattern the US Army was issuing to its Soldiers at the time this program was getting started (2007-2009) was the newly adopted Universal Camouflage Pattern. Like the ANA pattern, it too was issued to troops without any environmental testing. However, indications from American troops in the field were that its light green and grey coloration did not perform well in Afghanistan. The most powerful Army on the face of the earth didn’t conduct operational testing of its camouflage pattern prior to fielding it, and yet, in hindsight, we expect Afghanistan’s newly formed Army to have conducted such testing.

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When UCP was eventually replaced, it wasn’t with a pattern developed by Natick, but rather by another commercially developed pattern, Crye Precision’s MultiCam.

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Natick also offered the authors of the report costs and timeframes for various options to replace the ANA camouflage pattern with something new. However, they failed to disclose that their magnum opus, Phase IV of the Army Camouflage Improvement Effort, was never completed. Years on, we still have no idea how much money the Army spent on the project or its conclusions. For taxpayer and industry alike, it remains an utter failure. And yet, they want to take charge of fixing something that isn’t broken.

The report also raises the question of whether the purchase of the uniforms was legal under the Federal Acquisition Regulations, claiming that it violated sole source rules. Technically, the uniforms have never been ‘sole sourced’ because multiple manufacturers bid against one another to make them. However, if the argument is that the camouflage print required sole source justification, that’s quite simple. The pattern is the ANA pattern. That’s justification enough. We left the choice up to them. They chose and we agreed to buy their uniforms for them. It’s not like we haven’t paid a licensing fee for years as well, purchasing Clothing and Equipment in Crye Precision MultiCam.

In the report, much is made about wasted money due to the differences in price between ANA pattern uniforms in SPEC4CE Forest and Afghan National Police uniforms printed in M81 Woodland camouflage pattern. Amazingly, the cost differences between these two uniforms are highlighted, but the appropriateness of the ANA’s woodland coloration is critiqued while nothing is said of the ANP’s woodland pattern. Additionally, the report includes an interesting statement (footnote 28) which helps explain the stark difference in price. The ANA uniforms are in the Army Combat Uniform style, made from 50/50 NYCO while the ANP uniform is in the old Battle Dress Uniform cut from a PolyCotton blend. To begin with, the cost to assemble each of these two styles is different.

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It’s also important to note that the NYCO fabric for the ANA uniforms is Berry compliant, as are most of the uniforms themselves, which means they are made in the USA from US materials. That also means they are going to cost more than fabric or a uniform made overseas. That’s right. The money in question has been spent on American goods and to pay American workers. Granted, at various times, the ANA uniforms have been assembled in Afghanistan, but ALWAYS with American printed NYCO fabric and findings. However, it is important to acknowledge that a small, but undisclosed amount goes to a license fee to use that SPEC4CE Forest camouflage pattern by Hyperstealth, but I understand the fabric costs are quite comparable to the fabrics used in US military uniforms. In fact, the uniforms cost about the same as a US issue uniform. Considering they are made from the same materials in the same factories, by American workers, they should.

The Polycotton material in the ANP uniform? That’s not made or printed in America. PolyCotton comes from Asia. Here’s another point about the difference between NYCO and PolyCotton. NYCO is no melt no drip, while PolyCotton will keep burning even if you take a flame away from it. Additionally, NYCO accepts printing very well and is colorfast, while PolyCotton fades quickly. You might also note that the authors of the report seem to think that the PolyCotton ANP’s uniform requirement of “no ripstop” is somehow superior to the ripstop NYCO fabric. Finally, NYCO itself is at least twice as durable as PolyCotton. The report claims that each ANA uniform is 43% more expensive than an ANP uniform. Even at a 43% markup, if that ANA uniform lasts twice as long, it sure looks like the ANA uniform is a much better value than the ANP uniform. How much more would those uniforms have cost over the past eight delivery years if they had been made from PolyCotton and they had gone through twice as many?

The money spent on that special camouflage pattern also paid for eight years of peace of mind. The first uniforms were delivered in 2009. The pattern has been restricted from sale to anyone outside of the program. Afghan and American troops haven’t had to worry that an enemy infiltrator may have purchased a lookalike uniform online. I’m not sure how you can even put a price on that. The woodland uniforms of the ANP on the other hand, are readily available for anyone to buy. Now that’s something that should be fixed.

After all of their “fact finding”, and discussion of misspent funds, what does SIGAR recommend? Why, spending even more money, of course. The conclusion is for the US to find a new pattern for the ANA. Never mind the millions of Dollars already spent on clothing and PPE and never mind the identity of the Afghan National Army. Instead, we should keep in mind that Afghanistan chose a pattern and barring any evidence that it doesn’t work, we should honor that. If it doesn’t work, we need to help them find a new path and not force something down their throats.

Who knows how much was spent on this report, and how much would actually be spent on developing an entirely new pattern. The program should be looked at as a success. The ANA has a distinctive uniform and it is restricted from sale to those outside of the program which has helped keep Afghan and Coalition troops safe from at least some infiltrator attacks. If the desire is to save money, perhaps a better licensing arrangement can be negotiated with Hyperstealth. But to start anew from scratch, replacing an allied Army’s equipment and identity, is a waste of time and money. However, if the actual goal of this report was to make the case that Natick needs to develop a new uniform for Afghanistan, then let them replace the M81 Woodland pattern of the ANP. That would do more to protect Afghanistan and their allies than a replacement of the ANA’s current unique camouflage pattern.

Birdwell 808 Board Shorts in WWII Frogskin Camo

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

SSD reader Joel P told us about these WWII Frogskin camo board shorts from Birdwell Beach Britches.

Features:
Triple lace closure with brass plated grommets. Birdie woven label on center back of waistband. Signature Birdwell wax pocket with key loop and interior drain hole. Nylon drawcord. Button fly with clear buttons.

Fit:
Medium length. Outseams range between 17” – 21” depending on your waist size. Sits slightly lower on the waist than SurfNyl boardshorts. Stretch fabric means there will be some give in the waist. For odd sizes, order one size down. Tab closure allows for minor adjustments in fit.

Fabric:
Single layer of Frog Skin Camo Birdwell SurfStretch – Woven Micro Fiber Polyester with Spandex.

Construction:
Fail safe clean finished double- and triple-stitched seams. Hand cut and sewn in Santa Ana, CA.

www.birdwell.com/products/808-mens-board-shorts-camo

Rampart Range Day 2017 – Grey Ghost Gear

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

You may not know this but Grey Ghost Gear has a Canadian subsidiary which had a full line of wares on display at Rampart Range Day.

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One of the items was this new helmet cover. It will be offered in Black, Ranger Green and MuotiCam for the Ops-Core, Team Wendy and M-TEK helmets.

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While the overall construction will look familiar as hybrid designs have become industry standard, this cover features a built in pocket at the rear for counterweights or other items.

http://www.greyghostgear.com

Rampart Range Day 2017 – Polaris Solutions Ltd

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Israeli company Polaris Solutions Ltd produces multispectral, 3D camouflage systems under their Rajuga line. They offer a wide range of different systems, ranging from observation port or sensor covers to full on OPs as seen below (front then rear).

As you can see, the shelter offers a rigid frame to help support the TVC panels and includes cutouts for observation ports.  


Different visual camoufiage patterns can be printed on either side of the Thermal Visual Concealment panel and the material also provides protection in the IR spectrum. Additionally, the TVC material offers sun, rain and wind protection and is bery lightweight at .7kg per sq m. It folds or rolls flat for transport and can be individually configured to mimic local terrain, offering a very effective 3D effect which sensors or observors can be concealed under.

The desert patterned system seen above is the Sniper kit. It sits atop a rucksack cover which is also part of the kit.

Polaris Solutions products are available through Rampart.

Vans and Defcon Resurrect the Sk8-Hi Notchback Pro

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Available May 27 at Select Retailers Globally

Cypress, CALIF. (May 23, 2017) – While DEFCON origins remain classified, the projects stamped with their namesake speak volumes. Vans reunites with the stealth collective this spring to resurrect the Vans Sk8-Hi Notchback Pro, engineered with three new Multicam® patterns, Arid™, Tropic™, and Black™, specifically designed to reduce the visual and near-Infrared signature of a person in three distinct environments. As an ode to past projects, the Vans DEFCON Multicam® capsule comes full circle, completing the footwear outfit with new apparel fabrics originally developed for the US Army and tactical law enforcement.

Available at select Vans Pro Skate retailers worldwide on May 27, the Vans Sk8-Hi Notchback Pro by DEFCON features:

• Premium Waterproof and Flame Retardant Wolverine Pig Suede®
• Water-Resistant treatment on uppers
• Multicam® Nylon textiles
• Dri-Lex™ moisture management linings throughout
• Gusseted tongue
• Military detailing from DEFCON identity to BDU specs
• Vans Ultracush HD footbeds w/ custom artwork
• Hesh Goat embossed heel stamp
• Durable reverse lug outsole and knurled texture foxing tape

DEFCON has evolved into a multifaceted study group responsible for the marketing and development of some of the leading brands in the tactical and streetwear worlds. Through both natural curiosity and fascination turned obsession, DEFCON has perfected their craft in media modifications, establishing their repute as a standalone brand.

The Vans by DEFCON limited-edition footwear and apparel capsule is available worldwide on May 27 at select Vans Pro Skate dealers. Visit Vans.com/skate to find authorized dealers near you.

Hyperstealth Supplies USMC With OPFOR Camouflage

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp displayed their new USMC OPFOR (Opposing Force) camouflage in the ADS Inc booth during last week’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

This is not the cut of uniform adopted by the Marines for use by their OPFOR. Instead, their uniforms use this camouflaged fabric but are in the MCCUU cut. Below is a close up of the pattern.

www.hyperstealth.com

Kitanica – Limited Edition A-TACS AT-X Range Shorts

Friday, April 28th, 2017

If you’re looking for something a little different for the weekend or range time, check these out.

www.kitanica.net/A-TACS-AT-X-Snow-Camo-Range-Shorts

Index Fasteners Introduces PenCott Camouflage Kydex Material

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Makers of thermomolded holsters, magazine pouches and other products can now get genuine Kydex printed with genuine, approved PenCott® camouflage patterns.

Index Fasteners Thermoplastics Division is currently selling pre-shrunk sheets of .080 inch thick, 1 ft. x 2 ft. GreenZone® printed Kydex® through their website. PenCott® BadLands® and SandStorm® camouflage pattern Kydex® is in development and will also be available soon. Contact Index Fasteners Inc. for further information.

Follow PenCott® camouflage on Facebook and Instagram, and Index Fasteners on Facebook.