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Congress Pushes Ahead with Plan for Joint Camouflage Uniform

Troops in Camoflage

CORRECTION: An article published Wednesday incorrectly stated that the language in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act would remove a provision to block services from creating new service-specific camouflage patterns.

Lawmakers still plan to eliminate service specific-camouflage patterns for branches of the U.S. military, according to language in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2015.

Last year, the House and the Senate Armed Services committees included a provision in the 2014 NDAA that directed the Pentagon to stop fielding service-specific camouflage patterns and instead develop a common pattern for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps by 2018.

Stiff defense spending cuts under sequestration caused lawmakers to target the services developing and fielding their own camouflage patterns as a way to cut costs.

The policy remains the same for fiscal 2015 except for one revision -- proposed by the SASC -- that would have allowed small, service-specific alterations to common-patterned uniforms such as special insignia and other uniform accessories, a congressional staffer working for the SASC said Thursday.

"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," according to the Joint Explanatory Statement to Accompany the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. "The House bill contained no similar provision. The agreement does not include the Senate provision."

The congressional crackdown on service specific camouflage delayed the U.S. Army's plans of announce the results of its multi-year camouflage-improvement effort it completed in the spring of 2013 and nearly torpedoed its decision to adopt its new Operational Camouflage Pattern a year later.

Army senior leaders selected the new OCP to replace the service's ineffective Universal Camouflage Pattern after an exhaustive, four-year camouflage-improvement effort.

The Army will begin introduction of the Operational Camouflage Pattern during the summer of 2015 in Army Clothing and Sales Stores.

OCP is also known as Scorpion W2, a revised version of the original Scorpion pattern that Crye Precision LLC developed for the Army's Future Force Warrior in 2002. Crye later made small adjustments to the pattern for better performance and trademark purposes and called it MultiCam.

The Army chose MultiCam in 2010 as its Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern for soldiers to wear in Afghanistan. OCP and MultiCam are very similar, but there are subtle differences between the two patterns.

It was actually congressional pressure that prompted the Army to launch its camouflage improvement effort in 2009.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who was then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, pushed the service to look for a better camouflage pattern after receiving complaints from sergeants about the UCP's poor performance in the war zone.

Some test community officials maintain that the 2004 adoption of the UCP was a mistake that could have been avoided, saving the Army billions of dollars on uniforms and matching equipment.

Two separate studies performed by Army scientists from Natick Soldier Systems Center, Mass. -- one completed in 2009 and the other in 2006 -- showed that the UCP performed poorly in multiple environments when compared to other modern camouflage patterns.

In both studies, MultiCam outperformed UCP.

Critics of the UCP maintain that the service has spent $5 billion on uniforms and equipment all printed in the inadequate UCP.

But the Army wasn't the first to adopt a unique camouflage pattern. The Marine Corps unveiled its MARPAT desert and woodland digital camouflage patterns in early 2002, prompting each service to adopt their own brand of concealment.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com

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