Everyone knew that the tactical industry was bound to get smaller as the war winds down. At one point, business was almost too easy. It wasn’t just spearing fish in a barrel. If you had gear ready to deliver, the fish literally jumped into your boat. But those days are over. And, with them comes the inevitable. Companies are going to close. Others will change strategies and expectations and survive.
Yet, the are two additional stressors on industry that are avoidable, yet doing some serious damage. The first is sequestration. The Government and particular, the military, long industry’s largest single customer, isn’t buying much. Not for lack of need, but for lack of cash. And the blame for that lies with forces outside their control; politics. Reportedly, sequestration has caused the second stressor; the delay in announcing the US Army’s new family of camouflage patterns.
Many companies have figured out that they have to switch back to a pre-war, retail-based business model. But now, even that is fraught with problems. Normally, the purchase of many Soldier System items would fall back on the individual as the military itself stops buying. Individual service members would buy socks, boots, daypacks, eyepro, gloves, flashlights, knives, etc. with their own cash. Soldiers universally abhor the current issue Universal Camouflage Pattern and according to the Army itself, they don’t want it anymore either. But due to the delay Army’s in announcing new camo, Soldiers in particular are wont to spend money on anything lest they buy the wrong pattern. And this has many in industry worried.
The retail market isn’t the only side that is skittish over Army camouflage. For the Government, DLA has delayed several procurements in anticipation of a new camouflage. But even then, crunch time is coming for some commodities that will have to be purchased before the Army runs out. At the very least, Soldiers will need uniforms.
You see, no one wants to be left holding the bag, ie a huge inventory of fabric or finished goods in UCP. Already, it’s practically being given away in fire sales by vendors. Manufacturers are afraid to order fabric because they fear the few orders for UCP they have will be cancelled at any any moment as the client specifies delivery in the new pattern. As one industry insider put it, “the supply chain is getting crushed due to lack of orders on top of drawdown and sequestration.”
The longer the Army delays announcement of a new camouflage pattern, the more it hurts the industrial base it relies on. Additionally, the Army is forced to purchase clothing and equipment that will have to be abandoned after the switch. And finally, delays impact readiness. The American Soldier (as well as members of other services/organizations that must use Army camouflage) deserve to use effective camouflage.