Military Camouflage Must Look the Same Under Defense Bill

Camouflage combat uniforms are going to get the same look across four U.S. military branches.

Defense-policy legislation that awaits a vote in the House this week would prohibit any of the services from adopting a new camouflage design unless it’s used by all of them.

At the risk of bruising the esprit de corps among troops, the provision may save millions of dollars and affect future contracts for 23 manufacturers across the U.S. that benefit from the proliferation of designs for the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Congressional efforts to reduce the 10 different camouflage uniforms now in use to a single one gained momentum after a Government Accountability Office report found that the Pentagon spent about $300 million procuring new outfits in fiscal 2011 and more than $10 million since 2002 developing different designs.

Since then, the four military branches have introduced seven camouflage uniforms with different patterns and colors -- two desert, two woodland and three known as universal camouflage -- according to the GAO.

Curbing the camouflage proliferation is a way “to eliminate the waste and duplication,” said Representative Bill Enyart, an Illinois Democrat, who led the House push for change.

The defense authorization bill, which sets policy and spending levels for the Pentagon, would let the secretary of defense waive the new camouflage uniform restrictions for circumstances such as special operations. The policy wouldn’t apply to headgear, footwear or body armor and doesn’t impose a deadline for service members to don a single combat design.

Potential Savings

The Army alone would save about $82 million if it worked with another branch to develop a new camouflage design, the GAO said in a report published in September 2012. The government watchdog agency also said that if the Army selects a new design it would cost as much as $4 billion over five years to replace existing ones along with associated protective gear.

“The services’ decision-making processes for developing new uniforms are fragmented and vary in their effectiveness,” the GAO said in its findings, which were reiterated in an April report.

Reducing costs may mean fewer or smaller contracts for camouflage manufacturers such as Boca Raton, Florida-based Tennier Industries Inc. or Tullahoma Industries LLC, based in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Uniform designers also would be affected if the bill becomes law. Crye Precision LLC in New York, and Atlantic Diving Supply Inc., also known as ADS and based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, were among the defense contractors chosen to submit designs for new Army camouflage uniforms.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at rtiron@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net

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