The Senate passed Wednesday evening a bill that includes a provision that effectively blocks what was expected to be the Army's announcement of its newest camouflage pattern to replace the Universal Camouflage Pattern.
Language inside the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2014 restricts any service from introducing a service-specific camouflage pattern and requires the Defense Department to start wearing a join camouflage pattern by 2018. The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama to sign into law.
Before the Senate's vote, the Army confirmed it was continuing work on adopting a new camouflage pattern. There have been reports that the Army has settled on a new pattern and had plans to announce it earlier this year before lawmakers started questioning service chiefs about the service-specific camouflage patterns and their costs.
William Layer, an Army spokesman, said the service was focused on adopting MultiCam -- the pattern worn by troops in Afghanistan.
"This appears to be the most effective uniform and is effective in a variety of scenarios that we've reviewed. We expect that we'll make a decision soon on whether we adopt this uniform for the entire Army," Layer said in an e-mail to Military.com.
Earlier this year, the Army concluded an extensive, four-year camouflage improvement effort. 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, a pattern popular with Special Operations Forces, outperformed UCP, the pattern the Army adopted nearly 10 years ago.
With the passage of the camouflage provision, it's unclear how the Army will proceed. Service chiefs are cognizant of Congress' frustrations with the money spent by the different services for the different camouflage patterns. It's not unique to the Army. The Air Force and Navy have had their own problems to include the Air Force's old Tiger Stripe uniform and the Navy's current blueberry pattern.
Of course, the Marine Corps started the trend in 2002 with the introduction of MARPAT that included the Marine Corps symbol sewn into the uniform. Since then, a certain level of pride has grown with the service-specific camouflage and there are many troops, especially Marines, who want to keep them separate.