Soldiers will return to the field to test different camouflage patterns as the Army looks to meet requirements laid out by Congress to find a camouflage pattern that could be used across the military.
The Army has signaled that the service will pursue fielding a family of camouflage patterns versus a single pattern. Army leaders are considering fielding a transitional pattern for general use that would go along with specialized arid and woodland patterns, according to a recent Army statement.
"Separate patterns designed for arid, transitional semi-wooded, or heavily wooded terrain tend to perform better than a single pattern, which seeks to provide concealment in all three environments," the Army wrote in a March 31 press release.
The Army was poised to announce the results of its multi-year camouflage improvement effort nearly a year ago, but congressional language in the 2014 defense budget called on the Pentagon to put an end to the services branding their ranks with unique camouflage uniforms.
MultiCam won the Army's earlier camouflage competition. A source told Military.com that before Congress blocked funding for single-service camouflage patterns, the Army was ready to go forward and introduce MultiCam as the replacement for the ineffective Universal Camouflage Pattern.
Now, the Army is re-opening the testing process and considering a host of camouflage patterns to include the Marine Corps desert and woodland patterns. Ongoing tests will occur this month and next at Fort Benning, Ga. The Army will then follow up those tests at Fort Polk, La., and Yuma Testing Ground, Ariz.
Army leaders didn't specify which camouflage patterns will be tested over the coming months. In the previous camouflage competition, Crye Precision LLC, ADS, Inc., teamed with Hyperstealth, Inc.; Brookwood Companies, Inc.; and Kryptek, Inc. all competed. None of the four patterns clearly outperformed through all the test environments, but MultiCam was considered the winner.
"Once the testing is complete, Army leadership will use the test results to reach a decision on whether to keep the present camouflage pattern or adopt one of the new families of patterns," according to the Army press release.
However, the question remains over how much the Army is willing to spend on the testing process and the fielding of a UCP replacement. Congress blocked service specific camouflage partially to cut down on the cost and number of expensive fielding programs being pursued by the different services.
Fielding a family of camouflage patterns would add to the price tag. Not only would uniforms have to be purchased, but also the corresponding equipment.
Details have already emerged concerning the Army's reluctance to pay for new combat uniforms. Officials with Crye Precision LLC, the inventor of the MultiCam pattern, said the Army has not been willing to pay what the market demands for effective camouflage.
When Army officials approached Crye Precision about replacing UCP with MultiCam, the vendors increased the price the Army had been paying for uniforms in Afghanistan by up to 20 percent. In October 2013, the Army released a Justification and Approval that it planned to issue MultiCam as the Army's "principle camouflage pattern," Crye officials said.
However, Crye officials said it could not control what vendors charge and the company's additional profit would only make up a 1 percent increase.
"Crye submitted several formal proposals which proved that the Army could procure MultiCam gear at prices within 1 percent of UCP gear," the Crye release states. "Crye's proposals additionally showed that this could be accomplished with no upfront cost to the Army."
"The Army rejected all of Crye's proposals and did not present any counter proposals, effectively saying that a proven increase in soldier survivability was not worth a price difference of less than 1 percent."
Army officials then requested a buyout price for MultiCam, but Crye officials were reluctant to sell the service the rights to the MultiCam brand. A buyout price would have to include the entire lifetime value of the MultiCam brand, making it expensive, Crye officials said.
Crye officials finally agreed to provide a buyout price request -- $24.8 million according to an Army source familiar with negotiations.
"Crye's offer was rejected outright by the Army," Crye officials said. "No official counter offers to any of Crye's proposals were ever provided to Crye by the Army."
Of note, the Army has spent hundreds of millions of dollar on the Ground Combat Vehicle program since 2011. Army leaders canceled the program this year and will not field one vehicle.