A soldier at Fort Bragg, N.C., asked the defense secretary if standard issue will apply across the services during one of Hagel's stops during his trip along the East Coast last week. Hagel's answer was simple and to the point.
"Yes ... we're being forced to." What's forcing the Defense Department's hand is sequestration and the resulting reductions to the defense budget.
Congress has already written language restricting the services from designing their own camouflage patterns unless it could be used across the military. Committee members voted 32-20 to require the services to settle on a joint combat uniform by 2018 and restrict the creation of any new camouflage patterns unless it’s designed for a joint uniform.
Services officials will also have to combine pools of funding in order to start and execute new weapons programs. Budget cuts have put almost every modernization program in jeopardy. Smaller budgets have forced service leaders to get creative and find ways to combine programs with other services in order to have access to more funds.
U.S. Army officials had been ready to announce the Army Combat Uniform until the legislation was released in the defense budget. Now, the Army is seemingly on a pause as leaders wait to review the rules and see the effects from Congress.
However, Hagel said the old ways of doing business are over as it looks likely that sequestration and the $500 billion in cuts over the next ten years are here to stay.
"We're going to be forced to change things," Hagel said at Fort Bragg. "The fact is every program in the Defense Department is accountable. We're going to be changing business about how we do a lot of things."