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Why Has Controversy Over US Army Rights To Use Scorpion Camouflage Led To A Quest for New Camouflage Printers?

Monday, September 15th, 2014

To be sure, Operational Camouflage Pattern is the way ahead for the US Army. That fact is not at question and I’m very happy to see our Soldiers getting something effective. It is definitely an improvement over the Universal Camouflage Pattern that it is replacing.

But exactly what OCP is, and who actually owns it, are a bit more perplexing. With two distinct patterns sharing the same name, there’s sure to be some confusion. Turns out, ownership can be established based in records and a few pointed questions. But then there’s this whole printing issue that’s recently, and inexplicably come up. How that ties in, will all make sense, by the time you get to the end of the story.

As you know, the US Army selected the Crye Precision Multicam Pattern in 2010 and decided to call it Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, as it was intended specifically for use in operations in Afghanistan. Then, the Army began a Multi-year Camouflage Improvement Effort (aka Phase IV) that cost tens of Millions of Dollars and ultimately resulted in no new capability. During the Army’s rather protracted, ill-fated search, for a family of camouflage patterns for use in the world’s various operational environments, Congress decided to act, fearing waste. With the passing of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department had to stick with what whatever camouflage they already had. The Army reacted by renaming OCP to a simple “Operational Camouflage Pattern” to give it a more universal feel and started negotiations with Crye Precision to adopt the pattern service-wide. Unfortunately, the Army abruptly stopped talking to Crye Precision with the Army reportedly unhappy with the pricing provided by Crye.

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Then, in May of 2014, the Army’s leadership chose a course of action that would adopt a new flavor of OCP called Scorpion W2. It was a camouflage pattern created by modifying Scorpion, a developmental pattern designed in the early 2000s as part of the Objective Force Warrior Program and tested during the 2002-2003 camo studies. This new OCP variant also looked suspiciously similar to the existing Crye Precision MultiCam version of OCP. Interestingly, the Scorpion W2 pattern was tested for mere weeks before being certified fit for service, while the Phase IV testing went on for well over a year of actual testing and analysis with no final solution selected.

No sooner than the Army unveiled this variant did people start to question who “owned” the pattern. This was fueled partly by assertions by COL Robert Mortlock, Program Manager for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment that it would be less expensive than using MultiCam leading many to believe that the Army owns it. In fact, Scorpion W2 is a 2010 government modification of Crye’s patented Scorpion pattern and exhibits quite a bit of similarity to the MultiCam it is intended to displace as OCP.

To find the answer to the ownership question, I went to PEO Soldier, who’s Public Affairs Team directed me to the US Army’s Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. I asked some very specific questions about ownership of the Scorpion camouflage pattern and its use as a option under the NDAA. While they did reply in a timely manner, unfortunately, it wasn’t very forthcoming.

The Army possesses appropriate rights to use the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) on its uniforms and equipment. Congress is aware of the Army’s intent and Army has been informed that it complies with the NDAA.

William J Layer
DAC, OCPA

From the response, we know this; the Army doesn’t own Scorpion W2. We asked specifically if they do. Rather than a simple, “We own it,” they instead claimed, “appropriate rights to use” the pattern.

The question then comes back to, who owns Scorpion? For that, we have to look at the Scorpion patent (USD487848), issued on March 30, 2004. This patent for a “Camouflage Pattern Applied To Substrate” was granted to Caleb Crye and assigned to LineWeight LLC, Crye Precision’s IP holding company. Later, after the patent was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Army asserted its “appropriate rights to use” Scorpion based on a correction letter amendment in June of that year:

After claim, insert the following:
–Statement as to rights to inventions made under federally sponsored research and development.
The U.S. Government has a paid-up license in this invention and the right in limited circumstances to require the patent owner to license others on reasonable terms (emphasis added) as provided for by the terms of contract No. DAAD16-01-C-0061 awarded by the US Army Robert Morris Acquisition Natick Contracting Division of the United States Department of Defense.–

The Army has never challenged the validity of the patent or who holds it. Not in 10 years. Instead, as is often the case with Federally Funded Research and Development, the Army had the USPTO amend the patent with that statement above. It is also important to note that this same amendment was applied to patents for all of the various technologies that spawned from the Scorpion effort, not just the camouflage pattern. Like I said, it’s pretty much boiler plate. Finally, it goes without saying that the Army does not enjoy this same position regarding the later MultiCam patent (USD572909).

The issue at hand is whether the Army has lived up to its end of the deal they applied to the patent. It reads, “paid-up license in this invention and the right in limited circumstances to require the patent owner to license others on reasonable terms.” As you can see, it’s not just enough to have established who owns what. We now have to take a look at whether the Army should be paying for the “rights to use” Scorpion. It seems that based on this language, they can use it as they see fit. I can see where they feel that this assertion would give the Army the right to have modified the base pattern to the W2 variant. But that only covers their use. The issue arises when they pay others to print it and that is what brings this last “reasonable terms” bit into question. Even in cases of “eminent domain” where private property is seized by the Government for use, they must always pay a reasonable fee for the value of the property. The Army isn’t printing the pattern. Instead they are purchasing material provided by vendors that incorporate the invention. This is where things get sticky because these private companies have existing agreements in place.

According to industry and government sources, the companies that are currently printing the Scorpion W2 fabric unto fabric are paying Crye Precision a royalty fee. Yes, for Scorpion. It has been an open secret in industry for some time. I’ve even alluded to it once or twice. The fee isn’t being paid because the Army is living up to the verbiage it had inserted into the patent, but rather due to commercial, contractual obligations between the printers and Crye Precision.

Those same sources who’ve indicated that the royalties are being paid have also said that there are those in the Army’s acquisition community who are incensed at the notion. And how much is this outrageous royalty? As I understand it, the Army is paying less than $1 per uniform. Ironically, this is a similar price to what Caleb Crye asserted the Army would pay for the use of MultiCam in a statement released earlier this year (less than 1% price difference between MultiCam and UCP).

How did this royalty come about? The answer is quite sublime. When the US Army selected Crye Precision’s MultiCam for use in 2010, they insisted that Crye license about 11 new printers to use the MultiCam pattern. Eventually, over time, these limited use licenses were converted to also cover commercial printing. The contents of the agreements, which remain confidential, I am told contain stipulations that the printer agrees to not print patterns with similar shapes or colors to MultiCam in order to discourage knockoffs. Seems reasonable to me that Crye Precision and a commercial printer would enter into a legally binding royalty agreement but this situation apparently has some in government hot under the collar.

Circumstances being what they are, the question of whether the royalty should be paid looks to have been answered. Contracts exist. The question has transformed to why the US Government is taking action that could be construed as to impede those contracts.

At least three times over the past month, DLA Troop Support and PEO Soldier have held private, by-invitation-only meetings with representatives from various parts of the supply chain to discuss the Army’s transition to the OCP Scorpion W2 variant. One important conversation point has been the royalty fee and if there is a mechanism to avoid paying it. Printers have been queried as to whether they would be willing to stop paying Crye Precision the royalty. Another suggestion has been that perhaps a printer could be purchased by a vendor or even a new one stood up that was unencumbered by any contractual obligations with Crye Precision. I am told that as these conversations were being guided by PEO Soldier, members of industry glanced nervously at one another wondering, “What’s to say they won’t turn on my company next?”

You could easily dismiss this information as hearsay, if it weren’t for a Sources Sought Notice released on 8 September, 2014 by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support entitled, “Operational Camouflage Pattern Fabric MIL-DTL 44436B Class 14“. In this FBO posting by the Defense Logistics Agency – Troop Support, they are looking “for printing capability and capacity of Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) on wind resistant poplin nylon/cotton cloth.” All-in-all, DLA needs about 6-9 Million Yards per year of OCP NYCO in order to manufacture enough Army Combat Uniforms. As if they didn’t already know, based on years and years of interaction with the supply chain, not to mention those numerous secretive meetings, they are trying to figure out who can print cotton here in the US. I’m not buying it.

A few very interesting things stick out in the Sources Sought. First, there’s these disclosures that potential offerors must comply with:

52.227-6 Royalty Information APR 1984

52.227-9 Refund of Royalties APR 1984

Those would be so they can identify who actually has a royalty agreement with Crye Precision although, as I understand it, the exact contents of those agreements are confidential, and could not be disclosed to the Government.

Another very curious statement caught my eye and made me realize that there was actually something to those clues I had been picking up.

This notice is intended to identify firms that either have the equipment or are willing to make capital investments to obtain the equipment necessary to support the aforementioned requirements. Warstopper funding may be available to firms needing to make some capital investments. (emphasis added)

The domestic printing industrial base has stayed fairly constant over the past 10 years and exists almost solely to support DoD’s Berry requirements. It’s more than held its own supporting military printing (of which the Army’s is the single largest user). If anything, that printing capacity has taken a beating over the past 18 months or so, as the Army has half-stepped toward a camouflage way ahead and they curtailed purchase of UCP ACUs. Now that the Army has decided what they are going to do, the existing printing industry should be more than ready to go to work. So why offer up taxpayer money to set up a new printer? What are they up to?

I looked into this “warstopper” funding program to see if there was a good reason. Here’s what I found:

The Warstopper Program was created to preserve and/or expand the industrial base for critical go-to-war items that had insufficient peacetime demands to keep the known industrial base producers in operation.

Since NYCO fabric is used for ACUs and the Army fights in FR uniforms, I have to question this notion of OCP printed NYCO being something that we need to stockpile as a nation. Then, there’s that whole existing supply chain infrastructure that seems to be able to hold its own.

So I dug more and found they’ve established criteria for commodities purchased with the program. Maybe those will hold the answer:

1. Mission Essential or Critical

2. Low peacetime demand but high wartime demand

3. Limited shelf-life

4. Long production leadtime

5. Cost effective alternative to War Reserve Inventory

No. In fact, peacetime or wartime, demand for NYCO remains constant and that fabric has a long shelf-life. None of those seem to apply.

Consequently, several questions come to mind. Why does DLA Troop Support want information on printers’ commercial royalty agreements? And, why do they want to establish new printers? Perhaps the current crop of printers aren’t suitable? If not, why? Wouldn’t it be less expansive and faster to help them come into compliance?

Doing the right thing is critical to the acquisition community. But it’s not just enough to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations to the letter or to field great equipment. The end does not justify the means. Professionals must also avoid the appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately, as this story unfolded over the past couple of months, I’ve seen a lot of things happening that I’m concerned with; shake and bake testing, negotiations with IP owners breaking down, lack of transparency.

You should be concerned too and we deserve answers. We deserve to know why the Army and DLA are willing to invest taxpayer money in new printers that will compete with companies already struggling due to decreased government demand for their wares. We deserve to know why the Army and now DLA aren’t standing by the government’s own language by seeming to be interfere with private businesses negotiating “reasonable terms” with Crye Precision for the use of their Intellectual Property. Once again, I’ll echo a concern that has been voiced to me by members of industry, “If the Army can do this to Crye, what makes us think they might not do something to us later?”

I urge the Army and DLA to become more transparent in this process and explain why they have taken steps that appear to be made to avoid paying a company for the use of its intellectual property and why they are so interested in using taxpayer funds to establish new businesses in an already crowded space.

Leupold Mark 6 3-18x44mm Wins Again With FBI Contract

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Leupold®, America’s Optics Authority®, has been selected to deliver Mark 6® 3-18x44mm riflescopes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mk6_3-18x44_M5B2

Designated for use by the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), the Mark 6 3-18x44mm delivers a wide magnification range in a compact, efficient package perfect for urban environments as well as extended rural settings.

“The world’s most elite military and law enforcement units are finding the Mark 6 3-18x44mm to be the complete package,” said Wilson Timothy, director of tactical and international sales at Leupold & Stevens, Inc. “The 3 to 18 power range covers almost any scenario these groups may experience, all in a riflescope that’s less than 12 inches in length.”

The Mark 6 3-18x44mm riflescope has been selected by a number of agencies and departments for its rugged durability, exceptional optical quality, and American design, machining and assembly. As part of the ECOS-O (Enhanced Combat Optic Sight – Optimized) program, the Mark 6 3-18x44mm was selected by the Naval Special Warfare Center.

In addition, the past two International Sniper Competitions have been won using the Mark 6 3-18x44mm by SSGT Daniel Horner and SPC Tyler Payne. The famed Los Angeles Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team has also made the Mark 6 3-18x44mm the standard optic for the unit’s precision rifles.
“We especially want to remind rifle manufacturers that may be submitting weapons for the U.S. Army’s Compact Semi Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) trials that the Mark 6 3-18x44mm has been accepted and approved in a number of military contracts,” Timothy said. “There are a number of details to worry about in any military contract process, but your optic does not need to be one.”

For additional product and warranty information, please go to www.leupold.com.

The Official SSD Response to the Washington Times’ Latest Article on the US Army’s Halted Individual Carbine Program

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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Our official response to the Washington Times article entitled “Army quits tests after competing rifle outperforms M4A1 carbine”?

“Derp”

That is all…

U.S. Marine Corps Ocular Interruption (OI) Program Contract Awarded to B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. as part of $49M IDIQ Solicitation

Monday, June 16th, 2014

BEMeyers_RECOIL_34

June 16, 2014 (Redmond, WA) – B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. is proud to announce the United States Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) has awarded them a contract for the GLARE RECOIL (http://bemeyers.com/product/glare-recoil/) in support of the Ocular Interruption (OI) Program. The GLARE® RECOIL joins the established GLARE® product line of non-lethal green lasers that have helped evolve escalation of force protocols over the last 10 years. With over 36,000 hail and warning lasers fielded since 2004, the GLARE® product line is the most widely deployed system in service across the DoD.

BEMeyers_RECOIL_Action_01

MARCORSYSCOM met with B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. in Redmond, WA last week to discuss future deliveries and technology advancements by B.E. Meyers & Co. as part of the official post-award conference.

“B.E. Meyers’ reputation as a technology innovator and industry leader in non-lethal laser capabilities now benefits the Corps, and we are proud to be able to provide to them with the appropriate equipment to meet the challenges of the modern battlefield”, said Mike Alvis, CEO of B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. “The GLARE series of products have a proven track record of helping determine threats on the battlefield as well as saving lives. The GLARE® RECOIL will provide U.S. Marines in convoys, checkpoints, and during port security operations with the best technology available to ensure the safety of the Marine on watch as well as the host-nation populace.”

BEMeyers_RECOIL_Action_04

In 2011, B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. was awarded the contract for the Army’s Green Laser Interdiction System (GLIS) Program through PEO Soldier as well as multiple other deliveries to all branches of the U.S. Military. The GLARE® RECOIL joins the GLARE® LA/9-P, GLARE® MOUT Plus, GLARE® MOUT, GLARE® Enforcer, and GBD-IIIC family of combat-proven green laser ocular interruption devices.

MARCORSYSCOM in Quantico, VA is the procurement entity for the United States Marine Corps non-lethal capabilities, and will service the requirements of this program with B.E. Meyers & Co. Inc. to the greatest benefit of the U.S. Government, the Corps, and the Marine in the fight. The Ocular Interruption (OI) System solicitation number is M67854-13-R-1040.

bemeyers.com

Finalized RFP Released For Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS)

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Back in July of 2012, Project Manager Soldier Weapons released a Sources Sought Notice for a Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, by conducting a “market survey to identify potential sources for manufacturing a complete system or reconfiguring some or all of the existing 7.62 x 51mm M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS).”


Manufactured by Knights Armament, the current M110 is a lightweight, direct gas operated, semi-automatic, box magazine fed, 7.62 x 51mm rifle intended to engage and defeat personnel targets out to 800 meters.

After an initial RFP released back in November 2012, the wait is finally over: PM SW has released a finalized Draft Request for Proposals.

The details are as follows:

The Army Contracting Command – New Jersey (ACC-NJ), on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons (PM SW), intends to award a single Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract with Firm Fixed Price (FFP) Delivery Orders. This requirement will be solicited as Full and Open Competition. The minimum ordering obligation is thirty (30) CSASSs to be used for Production Qualification Testing/Operational Testing (PQT/OT). The period of performance for the base contract will be twelve (12) months for PQT/OT. Option one (I) will permit the Government to order production of systems, which will be the quantity of CSASSs needed to match the current M110 Army Acquisition Objective of no more than three thousand, six hundred forty three (3,643). Option one (I) will also include spare parts, depot support, first article testing, and Instructor and Key Personnel Training (I&KPT). Congruently, option one (I) will create five (5) – one (1) year ordering periods with Firm Fixed Price (FFP) delivery orders. Option two (II) is for the purchase of a technical data package (TDP) and Government Purpose Rights (GPR). The Government does not anticipate placing delivery orders beyond the PQT/OT quantities (30 ea) until the successful completion of Milestone C/Type Classification-Standard.

Offerors looking to compete in this requirement have the option to submit no more than two (2) proposal(s) to acquire a new system or to retrofit the existing M110 SASS. The contractor shall manufacture, produce, and support the CSASS. The contractor shall provide for all necessary labor, material, supplies, services, facilities, and equipment to perform the requirements of the Statement of Objectives (SOO) in Section C of the formal Request for Proposal (RFP).

The CSASS is intended to more effectively execute a broad spectrum of missions than the M110 Semi Automatic Sniper System (SASS). The CSASS will provide the following upgrades: improved reliability, improved accuracy, and improved ergonomics; reduced weight and length; advanced coatings; improved optics; reduced felt recoil; enhanced suppressor performance; enhanced modular rail capabilities; an improved bipod, trigger, pistol grip, and buttstock.

www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=7474a989b4929cfe52783861999d051a&tab=core&_cview=1

Ten Commandments of Effective Contracts by Jonathon (JD) Long

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

I’ve known Jonathon Douglas (JD) Long for several years. Originally written for his blog, this piece is based on some DAU material along with additional amplification based on his experience. I asked him if I could share it here in SSD as it’s always good for industry to see an insider’s perspective regarding contracts. For those of us that aren’t contracting professionals or members of industry, it’s a great learning opportunity. Thanks Jonathon!

From the Defense Acquisition University we are reminded about the “Ten Commandments of Effective Contracts.” Although seemingly simple and straightforward, the Ten Commandments could be a great facing page for any acquisition professional creating or responding to DoD procurement efforts.

1. “Read the contract.” That includes reading the request for information, request for sources sought, request for bid and or proposal (RFB/RFP) and responses to contractor questions after a RFB/RFP has been published. That means everyone on the source selection panel must read the contract and associated requirements documents before initiating a source selection. that means that industry should read their bid proposal along side the RFB/RFP to ensure they have answered all the government’s information requirements.

2. “The contract is interpreted as a whole.”

3. “Only the Contracting Officer may change or agree to changes in the Contract.” So to my colleagues in industry, it doesn’t matter what the helpful contract specialist or the quality assurance representative agreed to, until that agreement is institutionalized as an amendment to an RFB/RFP or a modification to a contract – its doesn’t count (meaning not legally sustainable). Remember – proposal requests are amended and contracts are modified.

4. “Requirements or material changes must be approved and documented.” While it might be acceptable following contract award and early in the spin-up towards manufacturing; to place advanced orders for material changes – you must follow-up quickly with the Contracting Officer (KO) in writing to describe what those changes are and which government official directed you to make that change. This ensure that the KO will follow-up with a signed modification as documentation. Don’t move forward and invest significant sums or manufacturing change plans until you have the signed modification in hand.

5. Approved and documented requirements take precedence over verbal requests.” See my comment above in number 4.

6. “No funding means no requirement.” Note to business developers – unless your customer has a validated requirement and associated funding, you don’t have real future business. The government cannot award a contract without a validated requirement and a valid funding Line of Accounting – not going to happen. This brings about the discussion on how best to meet future government needs. I have experienced two strategies: (1) Anticipate government requirements early on as described in some Advanced Planning Brief to Industry document or a Preplanned Product Improvement with the advantage being that both have an initial requirement concept in mind and likely some funding, or (2) “Build it and they will come” strategy. I believe that there was much more room for strategy (2) over the last twelve years of constant combat when the military services (mainly ground combat forces) refreshed much of their basic equipment, were open to new concepts and were well funded. However, I do not believe that this trend is continuing and with the draw-down in Afghanistan and US combat operations ending in 2015, I think focusing on existing requirements or incremental improvements is a more sustainable business development approach. I have heard the term “cost neutral improvement” several times.

7. “The contract schedule takes precedence over the contract clauses.”

8. “Contract clauses take precedence over the other documents, exhibits and attachments.” The contract clauses flow from the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and contain statutory language and direction that cannot be overwritten by a text narrative to do something otherwise. In reference to specifications – according to the uniform contract format, specifications are last in the order of precedence following documents, exhibits, and attachments (see commandment 9. below).

9. “Other documents, exhibits and attachments take precedence over the specifications.”

10. “Plain English takes precedence over technical language. Ambiguous language is interpreted against the drafter.” Now while I am not exactly sure about the practical application I believe this is similar to the baseball analogy that “tie goes to the runner!”

Now if we can just get the total solicitation page count decreased and the contract award cycle time faster, we would be doing great!

Burlington Wins $2.2 Million Performance Fabric Contract For US Marine Corps Physical Training Uniform

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

GREENSBORO, NC, May 30, 2014 – Burlington Industries LLC, a division of International Textile Group (ITG), announced today it has been awarded a $2.2 million contract to supply micro denier polyester fabrics to the U.S. Marine Corps for use in their physical training (PT) shorts. These fabrics will be produced at the company’s facilities in Cordova and Burlington, North Carolina.

These advanced woven 100% micro denier polyester fabrics are part of Burlington’s MCS® family of performance fabrics. These lightweight fabrics are breathable and have inherent moisture management properties. Using Sorbtek® fiber technology made by Unifi, Burlington’s MCS® fabric works by absorbing moisture, moving it away from the skin, and releasing it on the surface of the fabric for quick evaporation. This allows the wearer of the shorts to remain cool, dry and comfortable. In addition, Sorbtek® fiber provides inherent soil release properties to protect the fabrics against everyday soils, like sweat and grass.

“We are focused on producing a variety of advanced fabrics that support and further the efforts of our U.S. Armed Forces,” said Burlington President Jeff Peck. “Our MCS® technology is the performance foundation of the U.S. Marine Corps general purpose trunk and provides our Marines the physical training apparel that can withstand the rigors of Marine use.”

Burlington has been an integral part of the defense supply chain for more than 50 years and is uniquely positioned as one of today’s most diversified R&D centers for performance and technical fabrics for the military. “We continue to explore new opportunities to equip and protect our U.S. Armed Forces,” said Peck. “Our products range from basic innovations that elevate the performance of PT, battle and dress uniforms to the newest advanced technologies in infrared, insect repellant, cold weather, fire, and battle protection.”

Several years ago, to expand its military business, ITG combined the resources from four of its business units, Burlington, Safety Components, Narricot, and Carlisle, to create an extensive military products platform of diversified fabrics developed to service the specific needs of the military market. Products include fabrics for camouflage combat and utility uniforms, Class A dress uniforms, physical training and extreme cold weather wear, flame resistant and fire fighting protective clothing, high performance equipment, ballistic fabric and webbing for body armor and load carrying equipment, and other specialty items.

Burlington has been awarded a total of eight military contracts over the past 12 months totaling more than $238 million over a five-year period. Awards include dress uniform and physical training uniform fabrics for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.

www.itg-global.com/companies/bww_apparel

US Army Seeks Lightweight Tropical Uniform

Monday, May 5th, 2014

From the outset, I have to say that technically, the Army is just looking for a new fabric, as there has been no talk (at least publicly) about developing a specialized uniform layout for tropical environments. However, in addition to a new jungle boot that we talked about last week, Natick has released a Sources Sought Notice entitled, “Light Weight Tropical Uniform“. This is excellent news.

To read the meat and potatoes of what the Army is looking for, see it here at RFITropWeight.

This is an interesting move as it is an admission that the current fabric used in the ACU, a 50/50 NYCO or nylon/cotton blend adopted for the Enhanced Hot Weather Battle Dress Uniform in the early 90s isn’t really much of a tropical weight fabric. Prior to this, Hot Weather BDUs were made from a 100% ripstop cotton fabric. This came about as the Army “rediscovered” the need for a tropical weight version of the BDU during the invasion of Grenada in 1983. The Army had begun fielding the Woodland camouflaged BDU, made from a heavy, 50/50 nylon/cotton twill in 1981. Designed for use in central Europe, they were too hot for hot weather use. However, the comfortable, quick drying, 50/50 NYCO poplin fabric of the HWBDU was to be replaced within a decade.

Grenada BDU and ERDL

By the early 90s, a serious garrison mentality had taken hold in the US Army. Soldier were starching their HWBDUs and the process was wearing them out rather quickly, with fraying at the cuffs and collars in as little as six months. Instead of telling Soldiers to stop starching a uniform fabric optimized for tropical environments, the Army introduced a new fabric that would be more durable when starched and pressed under high heat. Unfortunately, this 50/50 NYCO fabric compromise fabric isn’t so great in the hot weather environments the uniform was intended for. The nylon content lowers breathability, making the fabric feel warmer. Operational capability was abandoned in favor of looking good in garrison. When the ACU came along, the Army incorporated that same 50/50 NYCO poplin fabric. Now that the Pacific Pivot is in, and the Army is scrambling to recreate capabilities like the jungle boot that it had abandoned years ago, it has dawned on somebody that they can find a better fabric solution and I am glad.

Granted, the Universal Camouflage Pattern is an issue in the jungle and Woodland EHWBDUs are will in use by some Army SOF and students at the new US Army Jungle School in Hawaii. Hopefully, the Army will work out a solution for this dilemma. But, we can always look back to a simple solution fielded during the Viet Nam War.

VN Jungle Fatigue

I’ve called it “The Greatest Uniform Ever Fielded By The US Army” and in my opinion, the OG-107 Jungle Fatigue in 100% ripstop cotton remains just that.

DA-ST-86-02617

In fact, this uniform, as well as the ERDL camouflaged variant, continued to be worn well into the late 80s by Special operations Forces.

20140504-210823.jpg

Rightfully so, the Army is looking, at a minimum (threshold), for a no-drip, no-melt solution fabric story. Naturally, if the star’s aligned (object) they’d like a full FR solution, although this is probably overkill considering the operational environment.

If you’ve got something that you think will work, the Army needs to hear from you by 1200EST on 08 May 2014. They’ll also need 5 yards of fabric (any color) and a the usual slew of technical data. Make sure you read the details in the amendments. The Army is going to use this data to help scope an actual requirement, making this is a very important part if the process.

With so much development in the textile industry over the past 10 years, here’s to hoping that the Army identifies a fabric optimized for use in hot-wet environments.

US Army Issues RFI For Jungle Boot

Monday, April 28th, 2014

If you’re a Pre-9/11 Veteran, the old, green, issue jungle boot holds a special place in your heart. After over 12 years at war, the Army not only abandoned the design that served us for almost 40 years but seems to have forgotten it ever issued them.

Alatama Boot

Several commercially developed jungle boots have appeared over the years in including designs from the new defunct OTB, 5.11 Tactical, Oakley LSA Terrain and Water Boots and the Rocky design seen below. I’ve also seen a new design from Bates called the Recondo that is very promising.

Just earlier this year, the Defense Logistics Agency even issued an NSN for a “Fast Drying Boot” to Garmont for the T8 even though it isn’t Berry Compliant because there wasn’t anything else available in the stock system.

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Now, based on the “Pacific Pivot” and the resurgence of the Jungle School (in Hawaii), the Army’s PEO Soldier is finally heeding calls from operational forces over the last few years for “Hot Weather Jungle Combat Boots”. About a month ago, COL Robert Mortlock, PEO Soldier’s PM for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment began to socialize his office’s intent to seek out a new boot. Initially, it sounded as if the boot would be evaluated under the Army’s resurrected Soldier Enhancement Program with commercial solutions cherry picked for the requirement. At the time, it sounded as if only two boots would be looked at and one of those had already failed an assessment by the US Army Special Operations Command. COL Mortlock’s public comments weren’t very encouraging, as they sounded as if the Army had just newly discovered the concept of Direct Molded Sole technology. Mortlock referred to them as “direct attach outsoles” in an Army press release but I don’t think he actually knows what that is, considering he discussed a glued sole in his description. Glue comes apart in a Hot Wet environment and you’re left with pieces of boots. So that SSD readers know, Direct Molded Soles, or “Vulcanized Rubber” soles aren’t glued but rather hot molded into place and were used is the jungle boot as well as the leather leg boot you were issued during Basic training up into the 1990s. Below is a 60-70s model. Later issued leather combat boots swapped out the tread pattern from the chevron seen here, added a padded collar and speed lacing.

Leg Boot

They haven’t discovered anything new here. The technology to produce this style of boot sole was developed by a division of Wellco named Ro-Search almost 60 years ago. Unfortunately, almost no one aside from Altama and Wellco still have the machinery to do this because Ro-Search leased, rather than sold, the machines and molds to the various boot manufacturers who supplied the military. When requirements were changed to include more comfortable mid-soles and construction techniques, the machinery was returned to its owners. Once the jungle and desert boots were dropped, the capability was as well.

However, the Army has finally done it right and actually issued an RFI. This Sources Sought Notice allows industry to put their best foot forward and tell the Army how it can fulfill this jungle boot requirement. Hopefully, this will result in an improved requirement when it is actually released.

According to the document:

“The hot weather jungle combat boots must be capable of meeting critical technical requirements, as follows:
1) Durable enough to last 12 months of wear in jungle environments where high humidity and repeated submersion in water are expected;
2) Quick drying and highly breathable, to allow for heat and moisture to exit the boot when worn;
3) Drainage which allows for evacuation of water from the boot while walking;
4) Light weight construction (under 2lbs/boot) with materials that resist water absorption ;
5) A Pronounced heel to allow for improved grip when walking down loose, muddy declines;
6) Tread/Lug pattern that easily sheds mud and debris while walking;
7) Outsoles that provide propulsion and superior traction while allowing for braking and stability moving both up and down wet, muddy slopes;
8) Able to keep mud, sediment, and debris out of boot while maneuvering through water and deep mud;
9) Designed to reduce pressure points and discomfort during descents on uneven, rugged terrain; and
10) Provide for quick break-in.”

The list is fairly broad which is good. But, a few points. We don’t seem to learn lessons very well which will become clear as you read this. Lessons learned in combat during past wars have been forgotten.

The boot cannot have any padding or linings. In the early 90s, Natick added a padded collar to the jungle boot and changed the color to black. The padding would eventually absorb water if you spent any time in a tropical environment. The black color was for uniformity more than camouflage. At least the leather remained smooth, full grain out leather. The current use of rough out leather can be problematic for use in hot-wet environments. That’s a lesson we learned in the Pacific during WWII. Another concern is that companies are going to want to add some form of cushioned midsole for comfort. Please don’t. It will absorb water. Speaking of midsoles, I see no requirement for a counter to ‘punji stakes’. This form of booby trap is a staple of jungle warfare. We learned this lesson in Viet Nam.

Panama tread

Instead of a midsole, the Army issued a Saran mesh insole insert with the jungle boot that provided cushion and helped keep the Soldier’s foot from directly sitting on the footbed in order to help keep the feet dry and increase ventilation. This is absolutely critical in the jungle. Finally, while the requirement is great concerning the capability of the sole, thus far, no one has shown superior performance to the Panama sole created during the Viet Nam specifically to improve traction and shed the mud that builds up in more traditional lug patterns. I for one, am hoping that Altama will offer up their traditional 1960s issue Green Jungle Boot with Panama tread to see how it performs against newer designs.

I’m glad to see that SEP has been reenergized and I’m also happy to see that the Army is seriously looking at jungle equipment. But, I suggest they crack the books and look at what worked in the past and see what might be readopted or adapted.

ADS Inc Wins USAF Non-FR Combat Shirt Contract

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Last week, the Department of the Air Force awarded ADS Inc a contract for $1,908,872.41 to deliver non-FR Combat Shirts under the Defensor Fortis-Load Carrying System 2 program. Intended for use by AF Security Forces, these Combat Shirts differ from the Airman Battle Shirt by being manufactured from lightweight, non-FR materials yet like the ABS, incorporate a mock turtleneck and also sport the Digital Tigerstripe Pattern worn by all stateside Airmen. These are going to be worn by SF on gate duty when they wear body armor such as IBA or equivalent to increase comfort and are not intended to be worn in a deployed environment.

Here is a full description:

All fabric shall be lightweight, breathable, moisture wicking and odor resistant; long sleeve “over the head” style with a semi-tight fit that eliminates bunching or riding up under armor; right & left sleeves shall contain: Air Force Digital Tiger Stripe Camouflage Print, hook and loop cuff closures, anti-abrasion padded elbow patches, two-channel flapped pen pocket on both forearms secured by hook & loop fastener tape, zippered shoulder pockets with 6-1/4 inch opening for all sizes (opening toward front of arm); right shoulder pocket must accommodate hook & loop name tape and rank insignia; fastener tape dimensions: loop fastener for name tape shall be 1 inch wide x 5-1/2 inches long, loop fastener for the rank patch shall be 2 inches wide x 2 inches long; torso & mock turtle neck shall be AF Sage Green 1641 (match color in Tiger Stripe Green) or Army Foliage Green 504; modesty panel covering chest area. These will be available in X-Small through XXX-Large.

There is still no award on the load carriage portion of the solicitation.