The U.S. Army's top leadership held a closed-door meeting Tuesday that's likely to result in the selection of the service's next official camouflage pattern.
Army officials briefed Army Secretary John McHugh on Chief of Staff Ray Odierno's recommended replacement for the Army's current Universal Camouflage Pattern, sources told Military.com.
Nearly four years ago, the Army launched its exhaustive Phase IV camouflage improvement plan to find a replacement for the UCP, a pixilated pattern known for its poor performance in Afghanistan. Uniform experts and scientists have been evaluating a handful of patterns that emerged from the massive effort.
The Army awarded developmental contracts to four vendors in early 2012 to Crye Precision, ADS, Inc., teamed with Hyperstealth, Inc., of Virginia Beach, Va.; Brookwood Companies, Inc of New York; and Kryptek, Inc. of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Equipment officials briefed Odierno April 11 on the results of the effort. Details are still close-hold, but there was no definitive winner -- meaning that none of the four patterns clearly outperformed one another through all the test environments, said a source familiar with the results.
One finding was clear though -- UCP is not an option for future Army use, the source said.
It's unclear when the Army will announce McHugh and Odierno's decision on the Army's path forward on camouflage, said Debi Dawson, spokesman for Program Executive Office Soldier, the command responsible for conducting the camouflage effort.
Some test community officials maintain that fielding UCP was a mistake that could have been avoided. 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, a pattern popular with Special Operations Forces, outperformed UCP, the pattern the Army adopted in 2004 to replace the service's woodland and desert camouflage uniforms.
Natick officials last year, publicly criticized the Army for selecting UCP long before testing was complete, charging that UCP cost taxpayers billions in uniforms and matching body armor, backpacks and other equipment.
The Army launched its search for a new pattern after Pennsylvania's Democratic Rep. John Murtha, got involved in the issue in 2009. Murtha was then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
He 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. Murtha died in 2010, just before the Army selected MultiCam as the clear winner over several other patterns to issue to soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.
Although MultiCam is issued to soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, UCP is still the Army's standard issue Army Combat Uniform.
The Government Accountability Office last year criticized the Army and the Air Force for their camouflage development efforts that have wasted millions of dollars and put troops at risk.
Each service has developed its own camouflage uniform over the past ten years, the GAO said. Military service leaders have introduced seven new patterns -- two desert, two woodland and three universal -- since 2002. GAO officials urged Defense Department leaders to work together and avoid the "fragmented approach" the different services have used in the past.
All four services universally wore the Army Battle Dress and Desert Camouflage patterns before the Marine Corps introduced their digital patterns in 2002 and branded the Corps symbol into it. The Corps' initiative left Army, Air Force, and later Navy leaders scrambling to provide their troops service-specific camouflage patterns, the GAO said.
Defense Department leaders have failed to require services to "collaborate and standardize the development and introduction of camouflage uniforms" causing the military to potentially "forego millions of dollars in potential cost savings," GAO wrote.
Critics of the UCP maintain that the service has spent $5 billion on uniforms and equipment all printed in the inadequate UCP. The GAO estimates that the Army will have to spend another $4 billion on uniforms and equipment over the next five years when it selects its new family of camouflage patterns.