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New Dress Blues in 2019? Not Just Yet, Air Force Says

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Uniforms from different eras are displayed with master sergeant Stripes during the 2017 Senior NCO induction ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 18, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mozer O. Da Cunha)
Uniforms from different eras are displayed with master sergeant Stripes during the 2017 Senior NCO induction ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 18, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Aside from the new combat uniform, the U.S. Air Force may not get any additional uniforms this year, as other priorities have materialized for the service.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright told Military.com on Tuesday that, while the service consistently evaluates new ideas, there are other matters that officials are looking to accomplish in coming months.

"The uniforms we use to carry out the mission are always being evaluated for improvement, as you can see with our current transition to the [Operational Camouflage Pattern]," he said in a statement provided via email.

"We are, however, working to get a few other items of interest across the finish line in 2019. Airmen should know that we are looking to improve how we develop, evaluate and promote our enlisted force. This is where you can expect to see the majority of our effort in 2019 and where we feel we can make the greatest impact to the future of our Air Force," Wright said.

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He added, "Our team is constantly looking for ways to take care of airmen."

In a move that could closely mirror the Army's push to bring back its World War II-era pinks and greens uniform, Wright previously said the service was considering a new look that reflects its 70-year history, particularly in the dress blues jacket.

Wright told Air Force Times in August that officials were debating a change to the dress blue uniform, with results expected in the near future.

"We'd like to get back to a little more heritage on the jacket, potentially adding two additional pockets and bringing it into more of a military style. I'd like to see it brought more in line with our military heritage," he said in the Air Force Times interview.

Officials also have reportedly been weighing options to give airmen more modern and form-fitting clothing options for PT.

But the service may first be considering ways to perfect how it promotes its airmen and manages talent.

The Air Force is expected to change how its senior noncommissioned officers are evaluated and promoted this year by overhauling or even removing the Weighted Airman Promotion System testing curriculum.

The service is also implementing a new high-year tenure policy that will extend the time some airmen can serve before they face separation, by lengthening the limits from eight to 10 years for senior airmen and 15 to 20 years for staff sergeants.

The Air Force in May announced a major overhaul to its battle dress uniform -- one that will cost the service about $237 million to transition to in the next two years.

Top brass said the service will ditch the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU, for the OCP, with the expectation that all airmen will be wearing the OCP by April 2021.

The push for simpler, more comfortable uniforms has been a top discussion point for the service's leadership, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

"We do have a process for making sure these things happen the correct way," Wright told Military.com over the summer. "Just like with the OCP announcement, we don't want to make any changes without giving our airmen time to adjust. If we do change the service coat or any other uniform item, we'll be sure to give enough lead and transition time for airmen to be ready."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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