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 is a reporter at He can be reached at
  • Larry Schwartz

    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?

    • majrod

      Great point though multicam consists of seven colors. The digital patterns you mention are three or four colors.

    • Carl

      Let’s not forget that the USMC refuses to allow any other service branch to use its pattern. They claim that they want their Marines to be recognized as Marines with a separate cammo. Apparently having U.S. Marines embroidered above the pocket and the EGA stenciled below it is not enough.

      The DoD could easily step in and require all branches to use the same cammo pattern given the AO they operate in but it seems that saving money in this area is too much to ask for.

      • Camo Developer Dude

        Yours was one of the best comments about this whole mess. Thanks for the input.

      • Greg

        Yep, you only need the 8 point cap, and EGAs to find a marine and thats it.

  • Mike

    …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…

  • sean

    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.

  • Lance

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

  • Gqshire

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

  • Paralus

    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.

  • JBAR

    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….

  • Strike-Hold!

    “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…

  • majrod

    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.

  • majrod

    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.

    • straps

      I can only presume you’re talking about the Marines. The premise for the Marines’ “Copyright” of MARPAT is the EGA in the pattern. They didn’t seek to enjoin Army when Army scanned the pattern and re-built it minus the EGA and re-colored it, doubling one of the ink plates. They didn’t seek to enjoin Tactical Tailor during their brief foray into de-milled MARPAT (same pattern, same colors, no EGA–and no interest from rank & file Marines because most Marines can wear any color gear they want as long as it’s Coyote, Issued and/or Approved.). No awkwardness when Navy spec’d the AORs. Because why? There’s no brand confusion happening. The other services’ disinterest in MARPAT is not the Marines’ issue.

      Oh, and there are five services.

      • majrod

        “They didn’t seek to enjoin Army when Army scanned the pattern and re-built it minus the EGA and re-colored it, doubling one of the ink plates. They didn’t seek to enjoin Tactical Tailor during their brief foray into de-milled MARPAT (same pattern, same colors, no EGA–and no interest from rank & file Marines because most Marines can wear any color gear they want as long as it’s Coyote, Issued and/or Approved.). No awkwardness when Navy spec’d the AORs.”

        You are factually incorrect. The Marines baled at the Army using MARPAT sans EGA in 2003 and again last year. They even made an issue when it was considered as a baseline in development of the newest patterns. Finally you need to rechech MARPAT and AOR. There are more differences than just the EGA and AOR came about because the Navy didn’t like SEALs, EOD or SEABEES wearing MARPAT.…

        USCG. My apologies. Add 2 more camo patterns to the USMC inspired mess (they’re still wearing BDU/DCUs).

        • majrod

          Correction: bawled not baled

      • Camo Developer Dude

        Dude, I am not trying to jump in and correct the corrector, but…

        1. I believe the official story is that the Marines actually patented the pattern, but… According to, The Marines did copyright MARPAT (Which was pretty much copied from Canadian Military duds).

        2. There are technically five armed military services, but the Coast Guard was absorbed by the Dept. of Homeland Defense after 9-11, and no longer belongs to the DOD.

        IMHO The Marines should be more concerned with the effectiveness of the fighting force, as a whole — not who can claim ‘ownership’ of a camo pattern.

        • John Grappen

          USCG never belonged to DoD. Prior to DHS they were under the Department of Transportation. Only when assigned to a DoD combatant commander to they fall under the DoD. They are not a branch of the military, they are a civilian law enforcement organization.

          Do not get me wrong, I love the work they do and have great respect for them, but it appears an education was necessary.

          • MAJthorr

            The Coast Guard and the Navy have a joint relationship and aren’t always directly linked to a COCOM. Navy ships will legitimately reflag to Coastie Commands in certain Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Operations to fill a capability void.

          • Nathan Schott

            @John Grappen
            Quote “They are not a branch of the military, they are a civilian law enforcement organization”
            An education is necssary for you! The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a branch of the United States Armed Forces as defined by 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(5):The term ‘uniformed services’ means—
            (A) the armed forces;
            (B) the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and
            (C) the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.
            ” The five uniformed services that make up the Armed Forces are defined in the previous clause 10 U.S.C. § 101(a)(4):
            “ The term ‘armed forces’ means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.” The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the US military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission (with jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters).and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President at any time, or by Congress during time of war. The USCG follow all rule and Regs(UCMJ) as all other services.

    • TTe

      “few will say the emporer is naked while they fail the Army” I immidiately thought of this tale at the very very first time They adopted this UCP and ACU. Seems the emperor know the situation and wanted to fool himself too with some more important reason.

  • Carl

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

    • Doc

      I don’t know what “urban” environment you’ve been in but no it does not, and honestly as long as there are people in an urban environment you can’t be camouflaged unless of course your wearing civies

    • Riceball

      From what I’ve read, desert MARPAT is generally considered to be fairly effective in an urban environment.

    • Greg

      Actually UCP was and is a **** camo anywhere it’s in.

  • Yank

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

  • Ron Stillwell


    • majrod

      Ron – In WWII the Army “PUT TIME AND EFFERT” into Duck pattern. The Marines used it in their uniform in the Pacific and later Korea. In Vietnam the Army “PUT TIME AND EFFERT” into Willow pattern for helmet covers. The Marines used it. Later the Army “PUT TIME AND EFFERT” into ERDL that was issued to Army units. The Marines also used it and issued for a decade after Nam. The 80’s Army “PUT TIME AND EFFERT” into the development of woodland BDUs and chocolate chip desert camo. The Marines adopted both and took advantage of more Army “TIME AND EFFERT” when it developed the “coffee stain” desert camo.

      UCP (or ACUs as you call it) was the Army’s invention after the Marines for the first time in history denied “their” camo pattern use by any other service. The same pattern that came from CADPAT which came from (you guessed it) the Army’s “TIME AND EFFERT” into fractal patterns in the ’70’s & “80’s.

      BTW, today’s soldiers don’t have the option of disobeying orders.

      • Camo Developer Dude

        Marines think they are so elite; hence the denial of camo pattern sharing. Sometimes I challenge Jarheads to a pullup or chinup contest. I always win by about 10-20 more than they do. It’s not about LOOKING better, it’s about BEING better.

        –an Army dude

        • ODG

          I know… lets have a spelling contest…..

        • Lance

          Over a;; there no sense to leave traditional BDU and DCUs with Multicam as a middle camo digi camo is no real advantage over regular camo since Thermal sights can pick up solders at night in any camo. whole thing was built on tacti cool crap ten years ago.

        • John Grappen

          dude, you are so bad a** thank god we have you to get this fight finished. When do you expect to have it done?

        • Greg

          **** YEAH!!

      • Yank

        Majrod way to school em!, good posting!

      • Greg

        Exactly, you all fight under one flag against the same enemy. So fight under one camo for the sake of the tax payers.

    • Doc

      Just so you all know the ARMY sniper school developed MARPAT and the army said no so the Marines adopted it.

    • Carl

      The Marines actually copied their MarPAT from the Canadians CADPAT cammo. Marines typically “suck,” off of other services, primarily the U.S. Army. They rely on others to bear the costs of R&D, then grab what they can and run.

      • majrod

        Carl – I don’t really care or mind when the Marines “suck” off of Army efforts. I prefer the term “leverage” anyway. I’m not a Marine basher. We all fight the same bad guys. The Marines are awesome and have a glorious history and warrior culture. I applaud them.

        BUT, my feathers get ruffled when other services start throwing stones or believing their own press. The Army isn’t blameless in this whole fiasco but I’m not going to stand idly by when a sister servicemember joins the kickfest.

        Getting back to “leveraging”, that’s ok by me but don’t turn around and take credit for being “frugal” or belabor the Army’s vastness when you rely on army support and medical support to take care of your troops. That’s just ***********.

        • majrod

          will “chicken poop” get past the censors?

  • B Wahl

    @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!

    • Go Navy!

      B Wahl: I do remember that the Coast Guard had better food since they weren’t part of DOD :) I did have some good times working with my Coast Guard counterparts. I miss being on 41′ (41399) underway on L/E or SAR. Just as I was leaving, Coast Guard started rolling out the 47′. Semper Paratus brother.

  • galloglas

    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.
    Issue MultiCam to Units afield in Afganistan only.
    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.

    • majrod

      Dress uniforms? That’s a pretty huge leap in logic. Those uniforms are much more tradition and service oriented than the functionality of combat uniforms.

      BTW, the Army had dress blue uniforms longer than the USMC which was derived from Army uniforms. G. Washington set up Army blue as the uniform for the continental Army in 1779. Marine uniforms back then were actually green.

  • galloglas

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

    • Greg

      Me too

  • Greg

    Yep it is a priority

  • majrod

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

  • Mike

    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’…

    • Rabbit

      Well said. At least people aren’t moaning over how the pattern looks “ugly” anymore; that particular argument never made sense to me.

    • majrod

      Yep, Great point!

      The services seemed to stop emphasizing camoflage is something soldiers do and not a reliance on what one buys.

  • xcalbr

    in the “urban” settings of iraq and afghanistan, marpat succeeds well.

  • Rick

    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.

    • COS911

      The marpat, and all digital camos really have too small color blocks. At Quatico, when they were transitioning, the marpat Marines were MUCH easier to see downrange than those still in BDUs. You often couldn’t see the BDU clothed Marines until you got 200-300 m closer than when you could see the marpat (woodland). The marpat just washed out to big green color that stood out, at least against the foliage at Quantico.

  • SFC Deb

    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!

  • Camo Developer Dude

    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.

  • Camo Developer Dude

    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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