Camo Update: Army Doing “Research” on Camouflage

It doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally an Army modernization official will say something that surprises me. The eyebrow-raising comment happened on March 2 during a reporters’ gaggle with Lt. Gen. William Phillips, the military deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology.

Phillips spoke about everything from the success of the double-hulled Stryker vehicle program to the effectiveness of the Army acquisitions machine. Then Eric Graves from Soldier Systems Daily asked if the Army was willing to move away from its $5-billion investment in its Universal Camouflage Pattern and replace it with a new camouflage pattern.

(Reminder: Program Executive Office Soldier is well into Phase IV of its Camouflage Improvement Program, having recently selected a handful of patterns the soldiers will test in upcoming field trials.)

Phillips responded with “I know they are doing research on different kinds of camouflage and uniforms,” before quickly changing the subject to a recommendation that was recently made to change PEO Soldier’s name  to PEO Soldier and Small Unit.

“We rejected that because … the Army centers around our soldiers and the importance of our soldiers and making sure that if we give soldiers the right capability, they will be successful on the field of battle,” Phillips said, describing PEO Soldier as “one of our most important PEOs.” “To change the name of PEO Soldier to something different, I think would be a step in the wrong direction.”

I realize this may not sound like such a big deal, but keep this in mind: when someone as high up the acquisitions chain as Phillips gets excited about something — like say the Soldier Radio Waveform or Ground Combat Vehicle or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle — they will give a 5-10 minute answer on the importance such a technological leap.

I followed on Eric’s question, asking Phillips if he has been getting briefings on the camouflage effort and if a future decision on camouflage was even on the table.

Phillips: “I am familiar with it. We are just going to have to get back to you. We’ll research it and get you the appropriate answer.”

He then talked about the success of MultiCam in Afghanistan and how he had talked to soldiers there last summer about its effectiveness. 

“When they wear that uniform and they stop, their comment was they disappear. They disappear into the woodlands in Afghanistan. That uniform and that pattern is absolutely the right pattern for Afghanistan.”

After the briefing, one of the public affairs officers asked me if I need him to research an answer to the camouflage questions Eric and I asked. No need, I told him. I wanted to know how much of a priority this multi-phased camouflage effort was to senior Army acquisition officials and I think I got my answer.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox has been a defense reporter since 1998 and is an associate editor for Military.com. He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq numerous times from 2002 to 2008, covering infantry units in combat. Matthew was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

25 Comments on "Camo Update: Army Doing “Research” on Camouflage"

  1. Larry Schwartz | March 5, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply

    It never fails to amaze/frustrate me that Big Army can't see the logic in just using the MC color pallete and implementing it as a modification of the digital woodland or digital desert or marpat pattern. Why should we pay a licensing fee to a company when the only problem with current digital patterns is that the color pallete needed to be fine tuned?

  2. …and the huge "whoosh" you just heard is another $5 Billion going down the tubes again, while the Military-Industrial Complex re-invents the wheel, and re-develops the rules to "Hide-and-Seek". And the Beat goes on…

  3. the most important and best money the Army could spend would be to invest in the new 3 uniform kit consisting of a aor1,aor2 and a transitional pattern. The three patterns we werte shown here a few weeks ago with the transitional, desert and woodland was awesome. i hear that transitional pattern is getting much attention in the trials.

  4. Looks like they are experimenting with MARPAT. That's the the way to go.

  5. I think you knew the answer when UCP was selected the last time.

  6. Whatever you purchase, whatever pattern, it will wear out over time and need to be replaced. If you have to replace it, then why keep replacing it with a pattern with limited application? UCP is suitable for garrison duty and perhaps urban settings until current stocks wear out. The sunken costs in development of gear just means you have extra gear for urban settings, etc., ad hasn't 'lost' it.

    Meanwhile the patterns they use in the field need to be effective. UCP isn't it.

  7. Option 1: Steal everything from the Marines. Of course the DOD could use it if they really wanted. I think they got it right. The normal MARPAT blends the green and brown pretty well. Coyote/earth tone works well for gear. Save lots of money. Option 2: Complete a study to see if a transitional uniform (and transitional colored gear) is really a benefit and necessary. If you consider: 1. uniforms and gear get dirty negating small patterns and blend in with the area colors somewhat. 2. Most people use cover and concealment normally or after reacting, so they will be in a little darker area (behind vegetation, etc). Most places have some type of vegetation even if brown. Multicam looks a lot like faded woodland when in green areas and still seems too bright. Is transitional still great at one thing, but terrible overall? Are we over-hyping camo now, or does it give us that split second advantage? Is transitional really necessary, or should it be the standard color set for uniform and gear issue? Option 3: Screw it. Go back to OD, issue Kaki for special wear when needed, and buy some spray paint if it helps. Option 4: keep the military industrial complex rolling, but get out of the billion dollar death spiral spending. It's safe to say that politics will always trump common sense. I get that having one universal set will help the soldiers and the tax payers, but not in the current UCP. Is that the name of color, pattern, or both? UCP may have its place in rocky or urban warfare areas. I cannot figure out, except for politics, how they thought something that bright could be universal and standard issue. I’m still trying to find the documentation on that one. If anyone knows of test results from that test, please pass….

  8. Strike-Hold! | March 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply

    “I wanted to know how much of a priority this multi-phased camouflage effort was to senior Army acquisition officials and I think I got my answer.”

    Yup – it sounds like you did.

    Its shocking that something as fundamental as the effectiveness of the soldiers’ camouflage combat uniform and personal equipment gets such a brush-off response – especially as the last cluster-f*** has cost the taxpayer a cool $5 BILLION dollars so far, and it literally took an act of Congress to get them to address the problem in Afghanistan.

    But, considering the story of how UCP was decided upon in the first place, its not really surprising…

  9. Matt – Don't disagree with your conclusion but you should never say no to more info. I would have liked to hear what they had to say.

  10. Again I'll be the sole voice in the wind…

    All those that right or not complain about the cost of UCP and the continued Army self flagellation in creating a better mouse trap give a pass to the servie that started this crap by for the first time in our history claiming it needed a "unique" pattern and went as far as to copyright it (again, another first).

    There's a very simple answer to EIGHT different camo patterns across the four services but few will say the emporer is naked while they flail the Army.

  11. Actually, the current ACU works very well in an urban setting, something MarPAT does not do well in.

  12. Somebody is not done milking this yet, that's what this is all about the last big cash scam.

  13. Ron Stillwell | March 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Reply

    THE MARINES PUT TIME AND EFFERT INTO THE MARPAT AND THEY SHOULD KEEP IT FOR THEMSELVES. THE THE ARMY ON THEOTHER HAND BOTCHED IT BIG TIME WITH THIER CRAP CAMO. AND I DO MEAN CRAP!!!.
    THE ARMY AS USUAL HAS THIER HEAD STUCK UP THIER BEHIND SO FAR THAT THEY'LL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY.
    I'M AN OLD ARMY GRUNT FROM MANY YEARS AGO , BUT I'LL TEL YOU GUYS I WOULD REFUSE TO WEAR THAT ACU IN COMBAT IN AFGANISTAN. COURT MARTIAL ME!!
    I'M VERY SICK AND TIRED THE THE ARMY TOP BRASS. TO BAD SOME ONE WON'T FIRE THEM, THE DUMB ASSES!!

  14. @Camo Developer Dude

    The Coast Guard was never part of DOD. Treasury first in 1790, then DOT in 1966, DHS in 2002. Despite not ever being a part of DOD, it is still considered an armed force of the United States, and as such its members are given pay and benefits congruent to their DOD counterparts – not the GS schedule.

    And yes, the DCU and BDU are still worn, albeit by those very few members on actual overseas assignments.

    Ex-RM2, USCG, 1976 to 1982. Semper Paratus!

  15. Let's not get too over heated with our choice of wardrobe girls.
    It is after all an Army problem not a Marine, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard clothing problem.
    Issue the MARPAT without the EGA and add an ARMY designed copyright.
    Or
    Issue MultiCam to Units afield in Afganistan only.
    Or
    Issue OD/coyote Brn solid UCP .
    The question of uniform changes to a Marine uniform logically can be followed by issuing Marine Dress Blues to the Army also, I mean if you want to take another branches uniform pattern then by all means go for the Blue, crimson and Gold pattern. It was after all originally an Army Artillery uniform.
    What element was added to the Army that got everyone talking like a Paris dress makers catwalk show?
    —–
    I personally think Multi cam is the best for US Army use.

  16. ****, I can urinate 15 meters and fill a liter bottle at the same time!

  17. Yep it is a priority

  18. Doc, first time I heard that. You have any sources? I'd like to read about it.

  19. Gentlemen, I'm just an old grunt from the "pre-BDU" Army…but, if you don't mind, here are my views on the subject of "camoflage": No uniform is going to hide you completely…unless your name is "Predator" or something. Stop looking for
    "Miracle-Camos"..and do like our erstwile former advisaries in SE Asia did: use the local terrain, vegetation, etc. Your uniform should only serve sa the foundation for the rest of your hidey-hole…and, that, gents is the name of the game. If you can be seen, you can be hit, and if you can be hit, you can develop a bad case of "dead". Just sayin'…

  20. in the "urban" settings of iraq and afghanistan, marpat succeeds well.

  21. The USMC pattern has been trademarked because the pattern has the eagle, globe and anchor in the pattern. Tru-Spec sells the same pattern without the EGA and anyone can purchase it.

    Also, the Coasties and the Navy wear six point caps, only the Coasties wear the old style cammo.

  22. I'm with Doc…I don’t know what “urban” environment you’ve all been in but the ACU's do NOT blend anywhere. Well unless you're lying down in the road in "urban" USA. As a long-haul truck driver in Iraq a few years ago and as a QRF unit in Kuwait last year, I can tell you when it's time to get out and pull security…you will be seen!! Brown/tan desert + grey/grey/white = no blending. Just sayin'. My opinion (and you know what they say about those) is the Army should switch to the Multi-Cams and call it a day!

  23. Camo Developer Dude | March 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Reply

    Think of it this way… When an element is engaged in an ambush they return fire, while maneuvering from cover to cover as they close with the enemy. In those brief moments when they are behind cover (temporary stationary), camo matters. During low-light/nighttime operations camo matters. Regardless of the terrain, a few extra seconds is very important to the mission and getting home in one piece.

  24. Camo Developer Dude | March 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Reply

    Don't take me too seriously one this one, I work with a lot of Marines and we always mess with each other… This comment was just me havin' fun. (I do win the pullup contests though. LOL)

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