WL Gore & Assoc

Posts Tagged ‘Camo Wars’

DoD Plans To Save $72 Million On Afghan Uniforms By Spending $100 Million For New Ones

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Last week, the Honorable John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, testified before the House Armed Services Committee, concerning his organization's recent report on the Afghan National Army's proprietary camouflage pattern, licensed to Afghanistan by Canadian company Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation.  SIGAR maintains that the US government overspent on an untested and inappropriate camouflage pattern. Boy, does this story sound familiar. 

Of all the untold Billions of Dollars squandered on bad construction contracts and given away to Afghan warlords, SIGAR is fixated on what they have identified as $28 Million, they claim was overspent during a period of five years on camouflage uniforms for the Afghan National Army.  Furthermore, the SIGAR report, and Mr Sopko's testimony alleges that the situation will result in a further $72 Million in overspending over the next decade, if it's not changed.

The Department of Defense's  answer to the situation? Why, spend even more money of course. The plan is to direct the US Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center to conduct a camouflage study and completely recapitalize the entire ANA with new uniforms in a camouflage pattern owned by the US Army. SIGAR estimates that will save us about $72 million. While Mr Sopko has yet to disclose how much this scheme is going to actually cost, I did a back of the napkin estimate based on what was spent in the past. To replace their uniforms in a timely manner, will be excess of $100 Million; well in excess. When you do the math, that potential savings of $72 quickly becomes a $18 Million+ deficit.  Not to mention the disruption of the ANA, as a side effect. 

When this new camouflage pattern is finally pursued, no commercial patterns will be considered, lest the Army have to pay a royalty. The point here isn't to offer our Allies the best available camouflage, but rather the cheapest and no one is taking the interests of the Afghans into consideration in this unilateral action. Amazingly, the last time Natick conducted a camouflage study for Afghanistan, the US Army selected a commercially developed pattern developed by Crye Precision, called MultiCam, over the camouflage developed by Natick.

The Army later conducted a massive camouflage modernization effort under the direction of Natick. The results of the Phase IV Camouflage Improvement Effort have never been released to the public and the Army ultimately created and fielded an inferior version of Crye's MultiCam which they were already using, in order to save a buck or two. 

In addition to the known elements such as established supply chain costs associated with this action, there are Millions of Dollars in potential, additional costs to the American taxpayer and industry. For instance, we have no idea how much the Natick study will actually cost the taxpayer because the salaries of government employees and use of equipment and facilities are looked at as sunk costs by DoD rather than being properly tracked and accounted for. Furthermore, it will take time (and drive up costs) to develop a supply chain for a new pattern. Printers will have to "learn" how to print it.

Industry will also have surge to create a sufficient number of completely new camouflage uniforms to support the transition for the ANA.  This will result in an increased transportation burden costing an untold amount out of money.  Then there's the question of how much money was spent to conduct this investigation and produce this report.  It doesn't seem like the taxpayer is getting a lot of bang for its buck. 

Interestingly, Mr Sopko also informed the legislators that a criminal probe had been launched regarding the matter, which, short of evidence of malfeasance, begs the question, why? Considering the pallets of $100 bills handed off to fickle Afghan warlords over the past 16 years, we are going to criminally investigate something where we actually saw a return on investment? The ANA actually received uniforms which provides them a common identity as an element of Afghan national power. Additionally, the uniforms work at night, when the ANA operates, and are in a tightly controlled camouflage pattern which is difficult for the enemy to acquire.

If I were an acquisition or contracting officer who made things happen in spite of the plodding framework created by the DFAR at any point since the war began, I'd be very concerned about this precedent. Because, if they're going to take a look at the Afghan National Army's camouflage expenditure, they are bound to look at other fast-tracked acquisition programs. In fact, someone probably ought to take a hard look at what DoD was up to regarding uniforms, during the same period.

Lest I remind everyone, this is what our Soldiers were wearing during the same period the SIGAR report is concerned with. It's also a camouflage pattern that wasn't tested, and not only wasn't suitable for use in Afghanistan, but for anywhere else it turns out. What's more, it was developed by the same organization that SIGAR wants to developed the ANA's next pattern, Natick Soldier Systems Center. 

It gets worse. The US taxpayer spent untold Billions of Dollars on that US Army pattern. The Army admitted to $5 Billion expenditures in 2012, but they kept spending after that, and their number was based solely on program Dollars at DLA.  It's almost impossible to really capture how much was spent in local purchase, at the sister service level, and on UCP ancillary items for major end items.  The real number is closer to $10 Billion than five. If they want to launch a criminal investigation based on fraud, waste and abuse, UCP is a great place to start.

If SIGAR wanted to actually improve things for Afghanistan, they could make these recommendations:

1. Simplify and standardize the cut and construction of Afghan uniforms across the board.

2. Negotiate a better licensing fee with the owner of the ANA's camouflage.

3. Replace the Camo patterns of the other Afghan forces which are forced to continue to wear the same patterns as their enemies.

Points one and two would help bring down costs of the ANA uniform and point three would result in a safer and more effective Afghan security infrastructure.  

Mr Sopko's team at SIGAR has done some great work, but they need to do much better on this issue. Spending more money than is saved is not a win.  Instead, this is a big loss, both for the American taxpayer and our ally, Afghanistan.

$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.

Blast From The Past: Camo Rumors – Some Observations

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

I was doing some research the other day and ran across this article we had published in the summer of 2009. It was written before the adoption of OEF-P Camouflage Pattern, before Phase IV of theCamouflage Improvement Effort and before OCP.  Looking at it in hindsight is kind of fun as some things we had originally said turned out to be untrue. For example, at the time, there was license for the use of MultiCam, but it was paid by the yard.  It’s really still that way today, but it just wasn’t as visible at the time.

Ever since Congress told the Army that the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) used on the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) wasn’t cutting it in Afghanistan, rumors and just plain old bad info has been swirling about the internet, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the subject.

Urban Legend 1 – MultiCam Uber Alles. Despite internet hype and the military version of an urban legend, MultiCam is not replacing UCP in 2011 or 2012. As best I can tell, this rumor came about because the Future Force Warrior program was supposed to be fielded in, you guessed it, 2011. It so happens that all of the photos of guys suited up in the FFW garb were swathed in MultiCam goodness. For some odd reason, folks couldn’t divorce the concept of FFW from Multicam. Hence, the urban legend. Naturally, this new round of Congressionally driven controversy has only fanned the flames of this untruth. Think about it. The Army just spent a gazillion dollars changing everything to UCP. In fact, fielding isn’t even complete. So ask yourself this question. Why would the Army spend a “gazillion” dollars on a new camo pattern and turn right around a field a new one mid-stream? The answer? It wouldn’t. They want to buy FCS, not new uniforms.

Urban Legend 2 – UCP is going away completely. It isn’t. The Congressional “suggestion” is only for forces in Afghanistan, not the whole shebang.

Urban Legend 3 – The Marine Corps offered MARPAT to the Army and they turned it down. Total Fantasy. Here is a truth. These patterns are about branding. When you see MARPAT, you think “Marine”. When you see UCP you think “Soldier”. MARPAT was developed for the Marine Corps. General Jones, former Commandant of the Marine Corps wanted a uniform that would let his enemies know when Marines were in town. He got one.

desert brush variant 3

I feel for the Army. What a big poop sandwich. “Hey Army, UCP stinks, issue something else. But use the money we already gave you for OTHER stuff.” You can’t just change out uniforms. You have to replace all of the Soldier’s other kit as well, or the contrast will just highlight the guy. So the Army is going to have to compute this huge cost for one theater. That was the point of UCP in the first place. One camo…universal. No more issuing two different patterns to guys…economize.

I feel even worse for the poor action officer at PEO-Soldier who has to develop the decision brief on this one. For example:
COA 1 – Do nothing…Tell Congress “Nuts”, I mean after all, UCP does work in some parts of Afghanistan.
COA 2 – Do Nothing…Beg Congress for cash
COA 3 – Stall…conduct study (Attn PEO-Soldier, I am available for contract to conduct said study)
COA 4 – Issue Woodland or Three-Color Desert
COA 5 – Adopt all new pattern – See pic above

Option 5? That is the fantasy option. Or is it? There are select US forces rocking MultiCam all over the place. Oddly enough, so are Snipers. Aside from that, the Army spent a great deal of time and effort developing and testing several patterns any of which could be dusted off including the one in the photo.

However, I am voting for some combo of one or more of the first three with COA 4 as the ultimate outcome. There is already precedence with the Army’s G1 permitting USASOC forces to wear Woodland camo. Plus, there are stock of the older patterns that can be drawn from to get this thing rolling.

Do we love MultiCam at Soldier Systems Daily? You’re damned right we do. Will it be adopted for use in Afghanistan? Who knows at this point, but it sure will be interesting watching whatever ultimately happens.

US Army Issued Patent for Scorpion Camo; Admits Pattern Inferior to MultiCam

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

On 7 July, 2015 the US Patent and Trade Office issued Utility Patent 9,074,849, Entitled: “Camouflage for Garment Assembly” to the United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Army. It followed Utility Patent 9,062,938, Entitled: “Camouflage Patterns”, issued two weeks earlier on 23 June, 2015. Both cover Scorpion W20601, initially developed in 2010 by engineers at the Natick Soldier Systems Center and later, after further refinement, recently adopted as the Army’s new Operational Camouflage Pattern.

  

There are a few curious things about this patent. First off, it’s practically an opus at 59 pages, although admittedly, there are a lot of illustrations. Also, it was issued very quickly, and coincidentally, just in time for the beginning of the Army’s OCP transition. Next, it doesn’t feel like it was written by a patent attorney, but rather by an engineer who was sure to include a great deal of fascinating, although extraneous information on how the pattern was developed and tested. Oddly enough, the Army hasn’t said a peep about it, which is strange considering they continue to assert “appropriate rights to the pattern“. However, once you dig into the details of the patent, you may see why they’ve stayed mum. Finally, the type of data disclosed in the patent tells an interesting story. But before we get to that, let’s address the patent itself.

The Abstract

A garment assembly such as a uniform, a military uniform and a military combat uniform is presented. The garment assembly includes a helmet or head cover being cut from a fabric having a first camouflage pattern with a first set of intermixed colored blotches thereon. The colors of the first set of intermixed colored blotches being selected from a first group of colors including an Olive 527 color, a Dark Green 528 color, a Tan 525 color, a Brown 529 color, a Bark Brown 561 color and a Dark Cream 559 color. The uniform also includes a coat being configured to fit at least a portion of a human torso and a trouser configured to fit at least a portion of human legs, the coat and trouser each being cut from a fabric having a second camouflage pattern with a second set of intermixed colored blotches thereon, the colors of the second set of intermixed colored blotches being selected from a second group of colors comprising an Olive 527 color, a Dark Green 528 color, a Light Sage 560 color, a Tan 525 color, a Brown 529 color, a Bark Brown 561 color and a Dark Cream 559 color.

One could take this revelation at face value, concluding that “the Army did it, they beat Crye!” But not so fast. That Utility Patent might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Types Of Patents
I’d like to point out that this is a Utility Patent which is very specific and the Army doesn’t seem to have done itself any favors in the specificity of its claims. For those unfamiliar, the claims of a patent are the points that are being protected and the patent itself is essentially a right to exclude, meaning the patent holder gets to decide who can use the intellectual property it protects.

Since it’s a patent, you’ll probably want to immediately put it on the same footing as Crye Precision’s existing MultiCam patent, thinking one cancels out the other.  Not so.  Lineweight LLC, which is the holding company for all of Crye Precision’s patents, holds a Design Patent for the MultiCam pattern (D592,861). But, a Design Patent is more broad in nature. Think of it as a picture rather than a description of specific elements of the picture.

A Patent’s A Patent, Right?
So what’s the difference between these two types of patents you might ask?

To get around a Utility Patent all you have to do is make changes to what you’ve got until you no longer violate the specific claims of the patent. The more specific the claims are, the easier this is to do.

On the other hand, to determine if someone has violated a Design Patent, they use the “ordinary observer” test. Essentially, if it looks like it infringes to the average person, it does.

W2 vs MC

At casual inspection, Scorpion W2 sure looks close to me. Just examine this photo. Which swatch of fabric is Scorpion and which is MultiCam?

What’s It All Mean?
While I’m sure Crye Precision is aware of this patent, it’s so new and so restrictive that I doubt they’ll do anything about it. There’s no reason to. Ultimately, the Scorpion patent doesn’t affect Crye’s existing MultiCam IP or any of its contractual agreements with printers. Despite the Army’s new Utility Patent, they will continue to pay a license fee to Crye through the printers in order to use the Scorpion pattern.

Update – Info Regarding Related Patent 9,062,938
The Army fasttracked not just one, but two patents; the “garment assembly” patent which is the main subject of this article, as well as another patent granted about two weeks earlier concerning just the pattern. Both are Utility Patents and contain much the same information regarding the percentages of color used to make up the Scorpion W2 camouflage pattern. While the “Camouflage Patterns” patent also contains all of the extensive information about the ACU and helmet cover substrate, it is just two pages shorter at 57, but does acknowledge up front that it is related to the “garment assembly” patent and incorprates the same data directly from the other patent.

Both patent also include this section:
  

This is the ‘Hail Mary’ play that the Army has included in the patents. Unfortunately for them, it won’t have the effect the Army has hoped for. They are showing these patents to printers and telling them that they no longer have to pay a royalty. All it seems to be accomplishing is causing further tension in the supply chain as the Army expects businesses to violate contractual obligations and then doesn’t understand why they can’t.

Crye Precision collects the licensing fees for MultiCam and Scorpion from printers through royalty agreements. The Army pays those fees as part of the per unit cost of each garment, just like they do for permethrin treatment. The printers entered into industry standard licensing agreements which were written to protect the MultiCam pattern. It’s business. These patents don’t nullify contracts between Crye Precision and the printers.  

It’s All About The Colors
Although the document does go into detail as to why other, prior art camouflage patterns don’t quite work, the actual claims in the Army’s patent revolve mainly around percentages of colors, even down to the tenth of a percentile. That’s right, the Army patented colors. I seem to recall a certain Colonel at PEO Soldier telling the media that Crye couldn’t extend Intellectual Property protection to the colors in the MultiCam pattern and yet, that’s exactly what the Army just did. Feel free to eat some crow on me, Bob.

This heavy reliance on colors to attain the patent is the pattern’s very weakness and may be why the Army hasn’t trumpeted the issue of this Utility Patent, because it literally invites counterfeiters. It is so specific, even the slightest change gets around the limited protection of this patent. In fact, because it contains so much information, the patent itself serves as a recipe on how to get around its very protection. This leaves the Army at the mercy of Crye Precision who has the more expansive Design Patent. It would be up to Crye to determine whether any newly minted Scorpion knockoffs violate the MultiCam patent and then police them.

What About The Bookends?
What does this mean for the so-called bookend patterns? The Army’s new Utility Patent obviously doesn’t protect any color variants due to its specificity, so they wouldn’t be protected by this patent.

And Now, The Rest Of The Story
There’s another, bigger story, lurking in the language of the patent. For over a year now, we’ve been awaiting details on the Army’s rather abbreviated testing used to select the Scorpion pattern. The Army was able to determine in a matter of weeks that Scorpion was the one for them when previous, Camouflage Improvement Effort Phase IV testing had taken well over a year to complete. For some odd reason, they included a great deal of extraneous testing information in the patent, perhaps in their haste to rush the patent through, for the official transition from UCP to OCP on 1 July, 2015.

The application was just submitted on 12 December, 2014. While unusual to be granted so quickly, as I understand it, this is perfectly legal. Although, the application was never published and there was no period for public comment regarding the patent prior to it being granted.

But back to testing. According to the patent, the Army conducted picture-in-picture testing of MultiCam, Scorpion, Digital Transitional Patterns 1 & 2, MARPAT Woodland & Desert and the incumbent Universal Camouflage Pattern across several simulated environments. These were Transitional (Arid, Dormant and Verdant) and Woodland (Dormant and Verdant). This chart (Table 4), embedded in the patent, shows how the patterns performed.

  

UCP Performs Horribly
Before we go any further, take a gander at UCP’s performance; just abysmal. It makes you wonder how long the Army has known about its performance and how long they ignored it. As it is, this set of testing was conducted in Spring 2014 and we know for sure UCP was also tested during Phase IV, back in 2012 but the Army won’t release those test results.

With Camouflage, Specialization Is A Blessing As Well As A Curse
This chart also validates something else we know to be true. Environmental specific patterns do very well in the environment they are tuned to, but work against the wearer in other environments. Just take a look at the performance of the two MARPAT variants across the environments to see how that works.

Scorpion Doesn’t Perform As Advertised in Arid Environments
The Army also makes an untrue claim in the patent application, declaring the Scorpion pattern, designated 100 in the patent, “significantly better” than all other candidate patterns in the Transitional Arid environment during picture-in-picture testing. As you can see from the patent’s chart, this simply isn’t true. In reality, it performed fifth out of seven patterns. Considering that America’s Army continues to be engaged with our enemies in Arid regions, this is ridiculous to purposefully adopt a pattern that performs worse than what they’ve already got. They made a similar claim regarding the Woodland Dormant environment but naturally, Scorpion was outperformed by the encironmentally specific MARPAT Woodland.

Turns Out, MultiCam Is Best
Despite explaining in the patent why MultiCam doesn’t work, testing demonstrated otherwise. What we learn, from the Army’s own published research, is that OCP aka Scorpion W2 doesn’t perform as well as OEFCP aka MultiCam, except in one environment, the Woodland Dormant environment (think fall and winter). Let me put it another way. According to Army testing, MultiCam outperforms Scorpion in four out of five critical operating environments. And yet, the Army adopted Scorpion anyway and is paying Crye Precision a royalty for this lesser performing pattern. Scorpion or MultiCam, Crye Precision receives a royalty. The Army spent time and taxpayer money to develop a pattern that performs less well than what they already had. In summation, the uniforms our Soldiers are getting now (OCP) don’t perform as well as the uniforms they were issued even a month ago (OEFCP).

Bottom Line
Based on the data presented in the patent, you can only come to one conclusion.  When you consider cost and performance, the Army should just drop the charade and fully adopt Crye’s MultiCam. Even better, the Army would gain access to Crye’s environmental specialty patterns which are already seeing limited operational use with certain customers.

A Note To Readers:
I’d like to wrap this up by pointing out that I am not a lawyer, but I did read the patent, and that for brevity, I’ve described some things, like types of patents, in rather generic terms. I’ll let the actual patent attorneys argue over the intricacies of Intellectual Property law but I’m sure there will be plenty of others who also want to chime in. All I ask is that you have an idea of what you are talking about and are prepared to explain the basis of any comments.

This article was updated on 16 July, 2015 to add imformation about patent 9,062,938 “Camouflage Patterns”, 23 June, 2015.

2015 NDAA Does Not Strike Requirement For Common DoD Camo

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Despite deliberations throughout this year, the 2015 NDAA aka the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 does not repeal the provisions of last year’s Enyart Amendment requiring DoD to move toward common camouflage patterns and combat uniforms.

According to the Joint Explanatory Statement to Accompany 2015 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015:

Revised policy on ground combat and camouflage utility uniforms

The Senate committee-reported bill contained a provision (sec. 352) that would amend section 352 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (P.L. 113-66) that established a policy that the Secretary of Defense shall eliminate the development and fielding of Armed Forces-specific combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms for specific combat environments to be used by all members of the Armed Forces.

The House bill contained no similar provision.
The agreement does not include the Senate provision.
(Emphasis added)

We note that the guidance for the military services and combatant commands required by section 351 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (P.L. 113-66) to implement this policy is late and has not yet been delivered. We also note that the implementation plan is also late and necessary to ensure proper implementation of the Department of Defense’s guidance to establish and publish joint combat uniform standards and performance criteria.

For more info on the 2014 NDAA provisions for camouflage read this: soldiersystems.net/2014/02/03/joint-service-camo-national-defense-authorization-act-fiscal-year-2014-repost

Updated – What I understand this language is doing is tapping DoD on the head to let them know that they aren’t following last year’s NDAA by providing information Congress asked for. It looks like Congress is still very keen on the subject and that they need to get their act together.

The Camo Wars Heat Up – Crye Precision Sues Duro Textiles For IP Infringement

Friday, November 14th, 2014

On 12 November 2014, Crye Precision filed suit in New York Southern District Court against Duro Textiles, LLC claiming IP infringement. While we have no further details, we can only wonder if this isn’t a step by Crye to protect their IP in the interest of their current licensees. And, we must wonder if this move isn’t somehow connected to the unresolved royalty situation with the US Army. Crye Precision has not responded to requests for comment, however considering this is an ongoing legal dispute we would be surprised to hear from them.

What Do You Do With Billions Of Dollars Worth of UCP TA-50? Why You Dye It, Of Course

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

When the Army began its quest to identify a new camouflage pattern several years ago it also realized that it was going to have to do something with the several Billion Dollars worth of Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, already in its inventory. By PM SPIE, COL Robert Mortlock’s own assertion, the Army plans on an eight year period to fully transition from the current patterns to the new one. That UCP gear is going to be with some units, particularly TDA-based, for years to come.

Last week, the Army issued a Sources Sought Notice to industry on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM-SPIE), Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier seeking a Overdying Process for Fabrics and Other Items.

OVERDYE

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about this and it isn’t the first time PEO Soldier has looked into the solution. Just last Fall they issued a similar Sources Sought but cancelled it in late November. To me, what the reissue of this notice signals is that the Army is finally moving forward with a transition plan. Although, they are stumbling through a couple of issues right now that should have been anticipated before the leadership selected a course of action.

In particular, they are seeking:

Project (sic) Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM-SPIE), Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060 is seeking information from potential industry partners who can provide a technology/process solution to modify the camouflage pattern utilized in the manufacture of current individual Soldier equipment. This development effort is aimed at over-dyeing fabric and/or end items comprised of nylon (500/1000 denier), cotton, FR rayon, and para-aramid of various fabric constructions. Specific items include but are not limited to Modular Lightweight Load carrying Equipment (MOLLE) and Improved Outer Tactical Vests (IOTV). Items requiring an over-dye process may have been treated with water repellants such as DWR, polyurethane, as well as flame resistant treatments, and may be comprised of fabrics of various fiber types and fabric constructions. The objective of this process is to over-dye the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) to create a darker color that more closely matches the shade/color of coyote brown. Of particular interest are portable technologies that can be utilized outside of the manufacturing environment.

I was told long ago that a solution had been identified, but it’s always good to see if industry has come up with anything new. Also, did you notice that they are interested in a solution that closely resembles Coyote Brown? The big challenge here is getting everything dyed to a common shade. With different wear and substrates, dying is as much art as science. As it is, getting the same production run or the same material, dyed to the same shade is a challenge because Cordura, webbing, NYCO, FR rayon, and para-aramid all absorb dyes differently and the concentration of dye is as much an issue as the wear to the fabric’s fibers. And that’s not to mention previous treatments which may also affect the absorption of dye. Consequently, the kit may end up looking like various shades of this:

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US Army Pits “Analog vs Digital” in Upcoming Camouflage Bookend Tests

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Nearly as soon as I had found out that the Army was planning to transition from the dreaded UCP camouflage to Scorpion, I found out about the upcoming “Book End” pattern tests scheduled for August – October of this year. When you see what they’ll be testing, you aren’t going to believe it.

US Army Camo Bookend Tests

Naturally, the baseline transitional pattern will be Scorpion (w2) and the Army will consider uniforms and limited OCIE items (such as helmet covers, etc) in MARPAT desert and woodland. ALso under consideration are the legacy 3-color Desert and Woodland (M81 to Camo collectors), both of which were previously displaced by the adoption of the Universal Camouflage Pattern beginning in 2004.

Initially, I didn’t get the pattern choices until someone put it into perspective for me. I kept saying to myself that someone in the Army sure wanted to adopt MARPAT but then I noticed that they aren’t looking at AOR 1&2. While AOR 1 and MARPAT desert are very similar patterns, AOR 2 was specifically tuned to use in jungle environments. The developers even turned the pattern 90 degrees to give it a more vertical orientation. MARPAT woodland on the other hand is a much more generic woodland pattern.

Since the woodland aspects of this testing are being driven by requirements out of the new Army Jungle School at Schoffield Barracks in Hawaii, jungle performance is going to have a lot of weight. With its more Green coloring, chances are very good that AOR 2 would outperform MARPAT woodland.

What I see going in here is something altogether different. After speaking with others, I see a test that pits “analog vs digital” and the Army is out to put us all out of “digital” misery.

If you look at MARPAT as the “digital” solution and 3-color and Woodland as the “analog” solution you can begin to see a method to the madness. Since Scorpion also looks analog in nature, adoption of the two other analog patterns creates a new “family of camouflage” that offers similar design elements if not outright geometry.

As I said before, a lot of credence is being placed on the needs of the Jungle School which has already scoured DLA stocks for the last of the woodland EHWBDUs in stock. They’ve been issuing them out to students for some time now and by all accounts are very happy with Woodland’s performance in jungle. As it should be, since Woodland is son of ERDL. It’s also important to note that Woodland isn’t completely dead. It’s still an issue pattern. There is an Army G1 message that still authorizes Woodland for jungle use due to UCP’s poor performance in that environment. Consequently, based on these two factors (creation of analog family and Jungle School use of Woodland), my money is on the “analog” solution.

My prediction? It’s back to the future with a Scorpion transitional pattern bookended by 3-color Desert and Woodland. Time will tell if I’m right. At any rate, I’m giddy (yes, I said “giddy”) that the Army is moving out swiftly to adopt more effective camouflage for their troops.