During a panel discussion on soldier lethality, Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey was asked anonymously if now is the right time to pursue a new uniform, "when the investment could be better used for more lethality than for branding and aesthetics."
Dailey said there is never a good time to do uniform changes.
"If you look at it from a resourcing perspective, there is a cost associated with everything we do," he told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
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The Army has made soldier lethality one of its six modernization priorities for building a future force that's capable of taking on Russia or China in a high-intensity fight.
The service plans to equip ground combat soldiers with sophisticated, new small arms; night vision gear; and other high-tech combat kit -- a move Dailey warns can be "quite expensive."
"We pay too much for stuff -- we do -- and this is part of our inability to maintain pace with our potential adversary because they don't pay as much for stuff as we do," he said, adding that the Army needs to do a better job of working with industry to keep costs down.
On the Pinks and Greens effort, Dailey said the service is "working very hard to get that cost to be neutral, but unfortunately the reality of that is, it won't."
In November, he said the final prototype of the Pinks and Greens will feature a belted jacket, khaki shirt, and brown leather shoes for men and women.
The uniform will be "historically accurate" to the uniform Gen. George C. Marshall wore as the chief of staff of the Army during World War II, Dailey said.
If the Army does approve the new Pinks and Greens, it will be its second major dress uniform change in less than a decade.
The service replaced its dress green uniform in 2014 after 61 years of service with a version of the Army dress blue uniform -- the Army Service Uniform.
"We are the only service, I believe, that only has one [dress uniform], so we put ourselves in a very cheap cost bracket in regards to uniforms in the Army," Dailey said.
The desired material for the new Pinks and Greens uniform is superior to the material "we used to produce the ASU," he said. "It's a much higher-quality uniform.
"There is a bigger value to this than I think is the risk assumed with the financial cost. That is the image of the American soldier, and I truly believe this," he added.
Pointing to the ASU he was wearing, Dailey said, "This is our core uniform that we began with back in 1775 -- the blues. That will remain the same.
"But we have to change the image of the American soldier in the American public's eye, and I think that the Pinks and Greens do that," he said.
Dailey did not indicate when the Army might make a decision on adopting the Pinks and Greens but said he continues to hear positive feedback about the effort.
"Not a week goes by that I don't get a letter from the greater American public that says, 'Sergeant Major, if you do anything, make this happen,' " he said.
"You can wargame the cost of it all day long, and you can weigh the outcomes of the risks of buying this uniform against monetary value," Dailey said. "I believe the risks and the benefits exceed that."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.