Tactical Tailor

Despite SMA Chandler’s Camo Revelation Industrial Base Even More Concerned

There are a lot of moving pieces in the US Government and this extends to the military. To the outsider it would often seem that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. But for the industrial base that supplies Soldier Systems equipment to the US Army, it looks downright schizophrenic.

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Consider that the Army has been telling itself and industry for almost three years now that the current, grey-based Universal Camouflage Pattern is going to be replaced by a new family of camouflage patterns. The Army even solicited industry to provide that camouflage and has spent tens of millions of dollars to test it. But then, having completed testing early this year, the Army has inexplicably sat on the results. While all this goes on, it continues to waste money purchasing clothing and equipment in UCP but in lower numbers than before. Concurrently, the Army purchases gear in the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP) a relabeled Crye MultiCam adopted for use in Afghanistan in 2009 due to UCP’s poor performance. But along all, the Army is very adamant that OCP is an interim solution for use in Afghanistan only.

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Starting in 2004, the Department of Defense openly admits having spent about $5 Billion dollars rolling out equipment in UCP but some estimates place the real number at double that. Until the use of OCP starting in 2009, that is all that they were buying so the supply chain concentrated on producing materials in the UCP colorway which includes tan for footwear and Foliage Green for accessory items and trims. Once OCP hit the scene, Tan 499 became the accessory color for use with that pattern.

The issue of what to produce started to become a real problem last year as orders for both UCP and OCP started to taper off and industry began to anticipate a transition to an entirely new family of patterns. As time wore on companies became even more nervous as they were sitting in a considerable stockpile of UCP materials with few orders coming in. They questioned whether the same thing would happen with OCP.

Now, due to uncertainty, few companies are willing to inventory raw goods which are the materials used to produce equipment. This means that they do not get as good a price from the mills as they only purchase as much as they need, when they need it, driving prices up. Additionally, it now takes longer to complete an order as they have to wait for the raw goods to be produced at the mill rather than dipping into their own inventory.

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And uncertainty abounds. The Army continues to delay announcement of their new family of camouflage patterns. They haven’t even notified the four finalists (ADS Inc, Brookwood, Crye Precision and Kryptek) whether or not they were selected which makes an AUSA announcement problematic. And yet, the Sergeant Major of the Army, Raymond F Chandler III informs troops that they will be receiving a new uniform that is very similar to MultiCam. What’s more, at a recent DoD Footwear Conference, officials from Natick inform industry that a MultiCam variant will be announced this Fall but that an as of yet undisclosed new boot color will go with it. That announcement alone threw a major monkey wrench in the boot industry. It means no more Tan leather and fabric. So what do they buy and at what point do they cut off orders for the current materials?

Want a few more examples of why industry thinks the Army is schizophrenic? Despite having decided (at least internally) which new family of patterns it wants to adopt, in early September, the Army announces out of the blue its intent to negotiate a licensing agreement with Crye Precision for OCP. And then, the very next week, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded 10 new delivery orders for 758,730 garments in UCP. Granted, we told you months ago that there was a cost to delaying the Army’s camouflage decision but that’s a lot of uniforms for an Army poised to make a change. Given all of these signs, to a business that makes its living supplying the military, they aren’t sure what to do.

And then there’s the elephant in the room. The impending legislation that will require all of DoD to adopt a common combat uniform and camouflage pattern by 2018. How do the Army’s disparate actions jive with that? Nobody knows. And that causes ripples in the market.

SMA Chandler’s comments really aren’t anything more than rumor if the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh, doesn’t formalize the announcement and place orders for clothing and equipment in this new family of patterns.

It’s time for the Army to get its act together, announce a camouflage plan and implement it. Failing that, they will continue to waste money and leave their supply chain in disarray.

33 Responses to “Despite SMA Chandler’s Camo Revelation Industrial Base Even More Concerned”

  1. Mohican says:

    Outstanding article, Erick!

    Camouflage revolution is crazy!

  2. DeepStitch says:

    Right on point! Confusion in the industry and in the ranks. Why buy UCP ACUs when they are about to announce a new camo uniform? It would not be the first time DLA Clothing and Textiles was out of step with the changing needs of the Army.

  3. Bman says:

    “Consider that the Army has been telling itself”… That is true and funny. Your concerns on them wasting money are spot on. But yet we see them daily with hat in hand talking about how they are cutting force readiness and training. I think keeping the guys training is far more important than the bean counters in supply commands being able to spend a bunch of money on garments that will be replaced.

  4. bob says:

    Should be an open letter to the COS. Maybe see if The Army Times will print it.

  5. This guy says says:

    The more I think about the more I believe the recent licensing agreement for OCP was done in an effort not to scrap the whole phase IV effort due to pending legislation. OCP will replace Crye’s transitional pattern which will meet requirements of the legislation and save the arid and woodland variants from the scrap heap thus keeping the phase IV program from being scrapped totally.

    So I want to hear more about the boots. Brown is a good color.

  6. Thumpy Covey says:

    Man, you nail it again! But here’s a question to posit to/about the U.S. Marines you’ll likely be seeing at Modern Day Marine; does their reticence to share MarPat camp “digiflage” patterns with their fellow brothers & sisters-in-arms mean they, too, are going to have their hand forced by the “one camo for all” decision looming on the horizon. And how much crazier will the industry be with having to gear up in a frozen economy to supply new-new-new and NEW with all the indecision ahead in D.C. for the next 3 years?
    Keep up the great coverage….you can hold them to account, with your readers help!

  7. majrod says:

    Wow, just when you thought the Army couldn’t screw up camo any further along comes this weird announcement.

  8. Chris K. says:

    Based on the Stars and Stripes quote alone, it is not clear that Crye is the winner. All 4 of the patterns have something “similar” to multicam in them; how certain is it that Crye won?

  9. Haji says:

    “Confusion” in terms of the market is probably better termed “uncertainty”. The open market hates uncertainty.

  10. Sgt E. says:

    Ughhhh all of this just continues to make my blood boil. The absolute waste that goes into all of this is insane. As the blog entry stats it also creates a ripple affect throughout the industry, causing pain for many.

    Being a Marine, I blame the Marine Corps for this fiasco and the BILLIONS wasted. With that said… someone should have stepped in and given MARPAT to the other branches when the USMC decided to go with it. Instead we had the Navy come up with 101 camo variants, the Army create UCP, and the Airforce decide UCP works if it looked more like tiger stripe. Billions wasted. The branches have different dress uniforms and in my pissed off opinion that is good enough.

    In fact, from a tactical stance, I believe that different uniforms are also harmful in the field. If you see a squad of Marines on patrol with one dickhead in UCP… well they stand out and I know I never wanted to appear “special” when there were a sniper threat that’s for sure. It gives the enemy knowledge of different units and allows them to adjust.

    Imagine if we spent those billions on better training setups, on better gear, etc…. or just didn’t spend it.

    I apologize for the rant but this kind of stuff gets me worked up.

    • Zach says:

      Rant is 10/10. Being a prior zoomie who worked with different branches as a K9 handler, having the different uniforms sucked. When I did my final tour in Astan, the fact that we were all in OCP was actually the first “common sense” thing Id seen in a while.

    • majrod says:

      Wow! You’re pretty brave to tell the truth like that. Refreshing.

    • Marvin Martian says:

      A good rant! All these uniforms is inexcusable; regular this, special that. The fact is when the shit goes down we’re all American Soldiers on the same team and if it goes bad we’ll all feel the pain. This is a MESS to say the least. Any leader aught to be ashamed of such foolishness. The bum on the street could make a better plan than all this.

      • m5 says:

        “The bum on the street could make a better plan than all this.”

        And here it goes:

        Announce the results of the Army camo selection program now. Choose the pattern that performed the best. Require all branches of the military to switch to it. Define a transition period based on current stockpiles and the estimated availability of kit in the new pattern. Prioritize deployed units in the transition.

    • Paralus says:

      except that, as Guy Cramer pointed out, MARPAT isn’t adequate in NIR or IR. It all blobs together at those spectrums. Considering our enemies might have night vision in the future, we can’t afford to have any camo pattern that’s vulnerable to those spectrums.

  11. Doc says:

    Right now my primary concern is that we might not get paid in October due to congress fighting over the budget and Obamacare.

  12. FLC says:

    Call your congressmen and Senators.
    The Army continues to award contracts for UCP Equipment in the millions of Dollars.
    A huge contract was just awarded for packs and pouches in UCP. soldiers will not see these items till well into 2014.
    and they will be converting to the new pattern by then.
    these items will be BRMO’d for pennies on the dolar.
    your taxes at work.

    • Angry Misha says:

      FLC, DLA Troop Support isn’t the “Army”.

      Because DLA is the de facto “Support” activity for the DoD, they are ordering based on current inventory requirements.

      Now, that’s not to say that the Army is not to fault here. If they would’ve communicated to the item manager (in this case DLA) that they were making a change, the Supply Request Package could have been updated and then DLA could have (maybe) modified their contracts with the vendors to include the new pattern(s). But mind you, this would’ve required DLA to modify the existing contracts for UCP which would entail re-pricing etc. Remember, the Army is going to have to not only make an award announcement, but also publish a wear out date for the current ACU, regulations for the new one and approve suppliers for the new material. The latter will take a while because they will have to undergo a gambit of shade, durability, flame, and environmental testing before they can be approved for production.
      It’s a lot more difficult (sometimes) than just saying “Make this instead of that”

      In reality, when you take standard ACU issue into consideration (4 Coats, 4 Trousers, 1 Patrol Hat & 1 Sun Hat) it’s only 75,873 uniform issue “sets” or 6% of the total Army (Active, Guard & Reserve). The fact coupled with the ACU’s “Service Life (6 months) and the Army’s “phase in” of the new uniform (6-9 months AFTER announcement) it’s really a moot point.

      I’m sure someone could find some data on how long Woodland was produced after it abandoned by the DoD and how much DLA still has on the shelf (though much of this has been “FMS’d” which is what I imagine will happen to ACU’s in UCP). Which could be a good thing if the recipient decides to go “Off the reservation” (and the main reason I have been a supporter of replacing the Iraqi and Afghani’s Warsaw Pact weapons with those which we and our allies are the prime supplier of ammunition and parts for, i.e.: the M-16A2)

      I could expound further but it would be akin to “mud wrestling a pig”.
      It is easy for some to stand on the sideline and “Monday morning quarterback” something they have no knowledge of.

      At the end of the day, when the announcement happens, what we’ll see is a line around the block at military clothing that rivals that of an Apple store on iPhone launch day for ACU’s in the new pattern. In addition, the old gear will be transitioned to Guard, Reserve and Schools so we’ll see those units running around in a mishmash of patterns, but that doesn’t really matter because if they deploy, they’ll receive the new kit.

      So relax, toss some popcorn in the microwave, sit back, and watch the show.

  13. Cap'n Drew says:

    Personally, I was rooting for Guy. Here’s hoping we can get the AF to agree to jump on this, too. Frankly, almost anything would be better than our current tiger stripe shamouflage.

  14. Jbar says:

    I want to keep aquaflaudgye so I can sneak attack some sharks and put lasers on them. Or, I can just slip off of a ship and float to the “fishing traller” that tags along behind our ships and go up the side and go full ninja on them. Never see me coming!

  15. Mike B. says:

    Congrates to the great political leaders we have in the Army. Still fvcking the simple up since the beginning.. The Army Sec. should pull his head out..

  16. JTL says:

    This should have been reined in several years ago; once again we go spinning out of control and pissing away millions of dollars during the most critical time in the budget.

    • JBAR says:

      And, after spending those millions, through continued issue of UCP, and conducting the latest camo study, could have POSSIBLY thrown out the best results in favor of a better economic choice. That will not be known until the study results are posted. I am not saying this in a negative way toward any of the contenders. Since the budget, and new political direction, the recent decision may have been made to keep Multicam (or close) as a gap filler until a joint uniform is hashed out between the services. So, the recent speculated adoption may be good or bad depending on the new requirement.Though, by the time that the Multicam starts getting issued through all units, the new Joint uniform will just start it all over again. In the end, even if the choice is for a gap filler, it is absolutely better than UCP.

  17. Paralus says:

    Apart from the SMA saying the next camo is mottled and very much like Multicam, it isn’t all that conclusive.

    If you look at all of the patters, they are all ‘mottled’. The ‘Multicam’ cam reference might just be an ambivalent description by the SMA if SSD hadn’t called the SMA on it.

    If the testing showed the Crye Precision was indeed the best option, so be it.

    • SSD says:

      I’m not sure how using a brand name and then clarifying that it is also known as OCP can be considered calling a guy out on something. When his office asked me to change my story I asked if he wanted to issue a statement that he meant MultiCam as a generic reference to camouflage but they didn’t take me up on the offer. Soldier who were present have stated on forums that they came away with the impression that they were going to receive MultiCam.

      He knew what he was saying and is now trying to play dumb.

  18. DeepStitch says:

    From the Army Chief of Staff’s Town Hall yesterday.

    Addressing the Army uniform currently being worn in Afghanistan, the OCP, or “Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern,” Odierno said the Army is studying the viability of that uniform.

    “They appear to be the most effective uniforms that protect our Soldiers, and are most effective in a variety of scenarios that we’ve looked at,” he said, noting that he expects a decision soon on whether the Army will stick with that uniform.

    • SSD says:

      Thanks guys. Based on the announcement two weeks ago that the Army is working on a license for OCP, I’d say that the Camo Improvement Effort is dead and the Army is going to just rename OCP and make it general issue. Way to blow $15 million and 4 years Army!

      • USMColddawg says:

        I noticed that after this announcement, Mr. Cramer has been very mum about this; even on his Hyperstealth and FB pages.

  19. Dan says:

    Hot off the press: BN supply chain notified to place orders for OCP uniforms because it is the new official Army uniform and what we are switching to. Ft Stewart.