I want to both direct your attention to a very important post on Soldier Systems Daily and offer my $.02 on the issue regarding a brewing controversy over the Army's methodology for finding a new camo pattern -- or family of patterns -- to conceal it troops in multiple theaters.
First a couple of caveats...
The staff of Soldier Systems Daily and Kit Up! are close colleagues and friends. SSD has helped Kit Up! recover from the doldrums of inattention in early 2010 to become a site that makes a difference in the lives if military and LE personnel. For that we are truly grateful and we continue to work closely together to provide our readers (many of whom we're sure read both of us closely) with news and information that's not redundant, but is instead complimentary.
That said, we sometimes differ with SSD's interpretation of events -- each of us brings our own background and experience to the table (I as a journalist covering the military for more than a decade, and theirs from inside the service and acquisition world). But on one thing we have not diverged. We both see the Army's attempt at finding a new camo to replace UCP at face value and have generally accepted the service's methodology as fair, sound and sincere. That's not to say that we don't keep in the back of our minds the possibility that the whole thing will be hijacked by budget reality or service parochialism.
SSD's position was challenged by a camo contender in a letter that calls into question whether the Army is serious about its efforts and has rigged the process in favor of the least best camo solution. I'll encourage you to read the whole (lengthy) exchange before proceeding. We agree with 90 percent of what SSD countered, but a few points from our perspective.
Kit Up! agrees that requiring two government patterns to be part of the downselect is biased and could be viewed as unfair by companies who spend their own money and time to develop patterns and test materials to potentially lose to two losing government patterns that may not have been better than pattern #4 and #5, for example. But SSD also has a "taxpayer protection" point too.
The camo maker also argues that at the end of the day, the whole process is skewed in such a way that it's likely the Army will pull a UCP and pick an ineffective pattern for subjective reasons. Kit Up! agrees that this is more than just a remote possibility. But we must also take our reporting of this process at face value and call a spade a spade. We've had many conversations with high-level officials at PEO Soldier that subjectivity will not be a part of the selection -- or will be at least minimized to not be the deciding factor -- and that, as Col. Bill Cole admitted, UCP was such a debacle that it isn't even being used as a comparison pattern. That shows the Army basically admits its choice for UCP was flawed and that at least the one-star level down, wants to make a break from that kind of decisionmaking.
Kit Up! is willing to suspend cynicism for now and accept the Army's sincerity at face value. There's no perfect way to conduct a program like this and from the general sniff test, we agree with SSD that the Army's process for finding the best family of patterns is sound.
Again, be sure to read the entire exchange at Soldier Systems Daily and weigh in with your impressions here.