U.S. Army Tried to Buyout MultiCam Maker

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It’s amazing that the Army’s camouflage is still in the news after five years. That’s how long its been since the Army first acknowledged that it had to do something about its ineffective Universal Camouflage Pattern.

Crye Precision LLC — the creator of MultiCam — finally spoke out on the Army’s attempts to adopt the pattern for service-use in the form of a chronological account of the Army’s attempts to “negotiate” with Crye over the price of MultiCam. I talked to Caleb Crye yesterday for my story that ran this morning on Military.com.

What seems to be at the heart of this issue is Army uniform officials can’t seem to accept that they have to pay more for MultiCam than they did for UCP.

Really? Let’s do the math here. After at least five scientific studies — four by the Army and at least one by special operations forces — MultiCam has outperformed UCP and performed as well or better than many other patterns on the market today. Is it that much of a surprise that vendors are going to charge up to 20 percent more for uniforms and gear printed in MultiCam than they would for the same stuff in UCP?

There has been a lot of talk about the “royalties” that Crye Precision receives from MultiCam sales. According to Caleb, those numbers are highly inflated. He lays out pretty clearly that the “printing fees” he receives account for about one percent of the 20 percent price hike uniform companies want to charge the Army for MultiCam.

“They attributed the cost difference to us incorrectly,” said a clearly frustrated Crye official during a March 19 phone interview with Military.com. “The Army doesn’t get its uniforms from Crye yet it is complaining to us that the uniforms cost more. We don’t control how vendors price things.”

So instead of paying for the extra money for a sold performer, the Army pressed Crye for a figure the Army could pay to own the rights for brand MultiCam, and essentially Crye Precision LLC itself. I can’t imagine how that would work, since MultiCam is so widely sold on the commercial market.

The Army rejected Crye’s $25 million figure and offered no counter proposal, according to Crye. What’s really confusing is why the Army expects industry to grant it favors and discounts when the Army continues to ask companies to spend their own money to develop gear and weapons for programs the service isn’t serious about fielding.

Now the Army is planning more camouflage tests. I understand the financial challenges the Army is facing, but this is still an easy problem to solve. The Army should negotiate the best price it can get from industry and  field MultiCam to the entire force — the soldiers are worth it.

 

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.
  • Gallowglass

    The really hilarious part of this is that Multi-Cam was on the table when the Big Yankee Army blew it off for the “Bunch Of Grapes” ACU.
    Caleb’s a good guy. Hope he makes another bundle off of this. They could have saved a shite-load of money just by going with MC in the first place.

    • Riceball

      You mean UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) , ACU (Army Combat Uniform) is the uniform pattern/cut and not the camo pattern it comes in.

  • Lance

    The whole camo issue was never a problem till brass made it. We should have stayed with BDU woodland and 3 color desert camo. This is proof how corrupt brass is they rammed UCP threw w/o test and wont buy a good camo for its troops.

    • Moondawg

      Sound reasoning and logic. But too simple and no money to be made or palms to be greased.

    • Hodge175

      Cool concept, except DCU’s glowed like city lights under NVG’s. There are reason special ops moved away from certain patterns. Just because it worked at one time doesn’t mean it’s good now

  • straps

    What’s amazing is that Army didn’t make a counter offer. Crye had a number in mind, $24M was just the starting point. That Army could take this nowhere, in spite of NO GOOD REASON to eschew “stuff” for ownership of the intellectual property behind it indicates a bunch of people with ZERO understanding of how business is done. No wonder Family Day always sucks.

    No reason to control it beyond ITARS, and there are IFF signatures you can put into what’s bought for government use if need be. You don’t see people falling all over themselves to print MARPAT with EGAs.

    If Crye and producers like Duro got OCP to within 1% of UCP, that’s freakin’ AMAZING; OCP is way more colors (with registration) and 2-3 gradients. UCP is two shades of foliage onto tan fabric with ZERO registration requirements.

    Whoever was involved in this latest debacle needs to be dealt with. Harshly.

    • Civilian Viewpoint

      Straps, you flat nailed it with your comments. $24 million was just a negotiating point and a starting one at that. Given that the Army has probably already spent that amount equipping the troops with OCP stuff, that amount is a drop in the bucket.

      My 2 cents (and it’s worth EXACTLY that since I’m a civvie and the closest I came to the military was ROTC): The tests were done, Multicam won. Shut up and pay the price. Crye has it right. They don’t make the uniforms, they don’t determine the cost of the uniform, all they get is a royalty – and it sounds like they’re willing to cut a deal on that, too. Go after the contractors, not Crye.

      You men and women know what works and what doesn’t and it appears that, to you, this is one of the best patterns out there. And that’s what I, as a civilian, want you all to have – the stuff YOU feel works. And, frankly, damn the expense if it’s what YOU want. We don’t pay you men and women near what you should be getting for putting your hides on the line again and again. The very least we should do is give you the gear you feel you need and damn good benefits once you get out. I, for one, am willing to pop for the expense through my tax dollars.

      Won’t weigh in on the service specific cammies issue other than to say, on the face of it, it seems rather stupid and not cost effective. If some General got his knickers twisted because someone thought he was in another service, all I’ve got to say is a General in cammos is like a chauffeur driven Lamborghini: Sort of pointless. At least in most circumstances…

      • Riceball

        To make matters worse, those tests were conducted years ago and since then better patterns have come on the market and the Army actually ran tests that concluded late last year or early this year and had 4 (Phase IV) finalists with one eventual winner. Instead of announcing the winner in a timely manner the Army continually dragged their feet on announcing the winner (a Crye submitted pattern apparently) and are now no longer allowed to use the winner because it’s not a current existing pattern already in use and I doubt that they’re willing to convince the rest of the US military to adopt their Phase IV winner.

  • John D

    The military screwed the pootch years ago with them ACUs now they want to fix the ten year old mistake! Whoever approved the old uniform should be courtmartialed along with all the boondoggle wasters inter govt!

  • The Stig

    Vendors aren’t stupid. Of course multicam will be more expensive than UCP. In my case, you’d have to pay me to wear UCP (btw, the Army does), but I’m willing to spend my own money on multicam.

  • mpower6428

    Im taking the Army’s side on this. better to design a new pattern then be price gouged by a war profiteer. that’s what this story sounds like, Crye Precision got greedy and, in a few years when the new hipster pattern comes out… Crye will fade into well deserved obscurity.

    • Dustin

      They were hardly price gouging and the Army was clearly just looking for a scape goat when asking to buy out a company as large as Crye without having a counter offer. Look at the time line, they never intended to replace anything. All they want to say is that “UCP works we just need to adjust the colors”. I’m sorry but I don’t like glowing out in the field, especially if someone wants to shoot at me. I’m glad you want the Army to develop more crap and get it over with but I want to live. Everything the Army has created has continuously ranked last in the tests. If you don’t have to where it in a combat role, you’re not a great source on what we should or shouldn’t where in combat. Read the reports listed. Even they mention how people still wearing the UCP basically just draw fire. And if you’ve ever been in the field with them you’d know why. We spent billions on a test and found what’s best and even the second best. Not only that but we’ve already issued everyone Multicam uniforms and gear. It’s clearly the best and most cost effective. If they don’t want that for what ever reason, Kryptek tested in line with MC in the phase 4. Isn’t that how competitions work? Fact is the Army wants to hold even more million dollar tests until someone gives them the results they want.

      • 11b

        UCP literally glows in the dark. Good illum on your night mission? Congrats, you’re a goddamn beacon. This kind of politics first crap is why people get out and don’t re-up.

        • Slag

          Or worse, Killed.

    • Casey

      $25 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what the Army has already spent on Multicam gear and uniforms. Meanwhile, they continue to waste money buying UCP that they know isn’t effective rather than make a decision. Read the SSD story for more details: http://soldiersystems.net/2014/03/18/ssd-exclusiv

    • Moondawg

      If Crye Precision was at all patriotic and interested in the welfare of the troops, it would have donated the rights to multicam to the Army and taken a big tax write off. Profiteer is correct profiting by the spilled blood of our soldiers.

      • Brad

        Oh please. Did JMB donate the rights to the M1911 pistol or any of his other designs? No, he sold them to a manufacturer or the government. Only then there was not a huge acquisition bureaucracy that cares mostly about sustaining itself. All the PMAs and PEOs etc. are grossly inefficient and wasteful. Anyone who invents a better mousetrap outside their little inbred network is a threat to their ego and their jobs. Multi-cam simply suffers from “not- invented here syndrome”.

      • Common Sense

        There is not a single thing in any western military inventory that wasn’t bought and paid for. NOTHING is free, if it was- why would any company bother to develop new technology? Crye precision developed an excellent product, which the US adopted YEARS later- because it works. Now they want something for nothing, that’s not a free market system.

      • Riceball

        Why should they, it’s not like it was specifically developed for and at the request of the Army, it’s a commercial pattern developed by Crye on their own dime and on their own time which the Army eventually adopted. Not to also mention that Crye only license the pattern itself and has absolutely 0 to do with the making of ACUs printed in it. So even if they donated the rights to the Multicam it’s not like the Army will be getting their uniforms for free all of a sudden, they’d still have to pay a vendor or vendors to print the fabric and sew it together into a uniform or maybe you think that the uniform manufacturer should also be making uniforms for the Army for free too?

  • Juanito Grande

    If there is no congressional directive for a universal service uniform, there certainly SHOULD be. This current situation (multiple branch-unique field uniforms) demonstrates the ineffectiveness of big government.

    • Slag

      Well, Little John ;-) , That is where the problem lies, Why the heck does the Navy need with a camouflage uniform? To make it harder to find seamen lost overboard, as if that task wasn’t hard enough with the massive expansiveness of the ocean as it is, why add to the difficulty there? With few exceptions, most of those members of congress have never been in the military, let alone combat! And fighter pilots don’t often see land-based combat, unless shot down. Being in garrison is distinctly from being in a war-zone.
      Just like a brain surgeon doesn’t use the same tools a podiatrist uses, the different branches need different uniforms for those times when the need to regroup requires the least distractions as possible. Granted there is the costs of multiple patterns. But, that is overridden by practicality of operations. there have been enhancements made with the newer uniforms over the old BDUs like angled pockets, which are more accessible while wearing body armor for one. There will always be limitations to any camo pattern, and not until futuristic chameleon technology is available, will that be resolved. The greatest problem is moral. It’s critical that all troops have something that is unique to their branch! The ineffectiveness of big government is the selfishness inherent in humanity to be in the position of power that makes one person feel that they’re better than the people that voted them into office! They constantly are coming up with this law or that law to justify their jobs, all feel good but lacking in substance. Or worse yet making laws which benefit their corporate sponsors (Can you say Big Pharma, Monsanto, Oil, etc.?) and NOT you, me or any other taxpayer!

      • majrod

        There’s no need for different patternsbetween branches. Units from the same branch get mixed more than different branches do. Cheaper cost, a sense of American on the battlefield and not giving away who the enemy is facing(OPSEC) are the benefits.

      • Riceball

        By Navy camouflage uniform I’m guessing you’re referring to their NWU 1 which, in case you didn’t realize, is not designed as a field uniform, the reasoning behind it was part morale (note the E at the end) because (supposedily) the dungarees weren’t that popular and sailors complained of feeling like prison inmates when wearing them. The second reason was to reduce cleaning costs because the pattern would, supposedly, hide any dirt, grease, or paint stains better than the old solid colored dungarees and far better than officer and Chief khakis which would allow the sailor to go longer between cleanings and/or replacing stained uniforms.

        The Navy also has 2 other camouflage uniforms in what are called AOR 1 & 2 for use by personnel deployed onshore (like SEABEES) and NSW personnel like SEALs and the like.

  • RON

    REAL TREE CAMO SUCKS!!! AND OTHER HUNTING CAMO ALSO. MULTI CAM, ATAC AND ATAC-FG WORK FINE FOR MY NEEDS, FOR DESERT AND HIGH COUNTRY HUNTING IT WORKS VERY GOOD .
    IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE ARMY CAN’T MAKE UP THEIR MIND ABOUT ANYTHING ANYMORE, FROM BETTER CAMO TO A BETTER RIFLE FOR GRUNTS. THEY NEED THESE THINGS. TO MUCH FLIP FLOPPING GOING ABOUT CAMO AND RIFLES.

  • Doug

    Ron…buddy…calm down. Take off the caps-lock.

    So what’s wrong with adopting Scorpion – which the Army already owns, and is very similar to Multicam/OCP? Most people would probably be hard-pressed to note the differences between the two.

    • Hodge175

      Because the Army already, buys clothing and equipment in Multicam… Why waste even more money on a new pattern when there is one already in the system that works. That’s just more of a waste of money

  • CaptainDoc

    Whichever pattern works is what is needed. What I question I post is that 5 uniform changes in last 15 years is a bit out of order. I agree with congress, one uniform for all forces… in a real life situation a sniper will pick up on any uniform in about 5 seconds. At the ranges we have been exposed to, lately, I would venture to say the pattern means nothing in just a few minutes. They are bit-hing about pay for members when the amount of money spent on uniform changes could pay for several new troops. Lets get real and give the troops the support and money and quit fighting over a silly assed uniform color or design.

  • Guam

    Pay Crye whatever they want for multicam.
    Use the pay, pensions, etc of anyone in the army/government who rigged the game to use UCP instead. There are many dead Americans because someone brass shit head has an agenda.

  • Michael

    Crye and vendors need to quit being greedy SOB’s and charge a fair price for their products. It’s the American tax payer that they are taking advantage of to line their own pockets.

    • CSARmedic

      $25 million is NOTHING out of the DOD budget. If you’ve done any form of budget management in the military you’d know that $25m is far less than an average AF wing uses every year in operational expenses. $25 million for a uniform pattern that has proven itself after 12 years of war to outfit more than 2 million troops is nothing. He should get more. And considering the ridiculous amounts of money the DOD pays for most weapon systems, again, $25 million is a joke.

    • Riceball

      Did you not read the part where the Army didn’t submit a counter offer to Crye? So it’s not like Crye is being greedy, they made an offer, which the Army turned down, but didn’t receive a counter offer from the Army saying what they would prefer the price to be. It’s sort accusing somebody selling a house of being greedy because they listed the house at X dollars and you never submitted an offer to the seller for less of your own. This is what happened here, the Army is not even pretending to negotiate with Crye, they just say they didn’t like Crye’s offer and left it at that.

  • DonM

    It is Crye’s product. They get go charge what they want, or you go elsewhere. If there is value in their product, then there should be a price differential.

    Having said that, the uniforms are designed wrong, and it isn’t the camo pattern. There should be an environmental layer to keep the soldier warm/ventilated, an armor-load layer to hold body armor and load bearing equipment, and an outer layer that alone needs to be camouflaged. The suspenders, ammo pouches ect, don’t need camouflage as they should be hidden by the outer layer. Part of what the Army is getting charged is retooling costs by the various vendors as they bid the preparaton for the new pattern.

    • Riceball

      Interesting idea but the problem with that is if the ammo pouches and what not are underneath an outer layer then it’s going to be a pain for the soldier to get at his equipment. Nobody is going to want to have to fidget with some sort of poncho or smock in order to get at their ammo pouches or first aid kits, or whatever else they might need to get at in a hurry in the middle of a firefight.

      As for your other suggestions, both the Marine Corps and Army already do something like what you suggest in the form of combat shirts. The torso area is made from a moisture wicking material like you see in exercise/sports clothing these days while the arms are of a camouflaged material unlike the the torso area which is just a solid color.

  • DonM

    Also keep in mind that any camo pattern should be garnished to match local terrain. If you don’t garnish (with high texture cloth, if nothing else) then your texture alone makes you stand out.

  • DLS

    Its all about money for the brass anyway !

  • jay

    Now I have a question. I see people say multicam won the camo competition. Is this correct? Was it selected based on the results of all those tests, or they selected multicam because was close to the best paterns, but had the advantage of already being widely used by the military?
    I’m asking this because I never seen a document showing how the paterns tested did and I’d like to see the results of the actual testing.

  • Solid5nake98

    I just hope they Phase out UCP before Im old enough to enlist… My uncle Hates the ACU… The army should just go back to the BDU’s they were tougher, more functional, more comfortable, and looked a helluva lot better than the ACU, plus at least they’d blend in to you’re surroundings… Which leads me to another issue with the ACU… Pen holders? Really? I still have not ever heard about anyone in the field griping about “not having enough pens in the field”
    That’s how we all know the ACU was approved by some office POG who’s never seen a single drop if mud in their entire military career…

    • Mike

      We’re not always in the field, the pen pockets are awesome. You said you haven’t enlisted yet but you speak of POG’s. Enlist, then we’ll see how your tone changes.

      • Solid5nake98

        My point is, the ACU sucks… I personally (along with every Vetran I know, including my father) prefer BDUs.
        On the ACU The Velcro gets screwed up, they’re uncomfortable in the heat, and they’re not as tough as BDUs (all things I’ve heard 1st hand from soldiers on active duty). I think the Army should at least go back to the BDUs, or DCU’s, if not purchace a new pattern…
        As for my POG comment, i was statin that they rushed the ACU design… They should’ve fielded a batch to soldiers on the front lines, and gotten their feedback, not the feedback of someone who rarely, or won’t see combat, such as a “Desk jokey” or “POG” It’s common sense…
        As for my “tone” you mentioned, there is a general dislike of POGs among anybody with an MOS where they’re in the field. Ie. Infantry, combat engineers, Cav, among others.
        POGs might be disliked, but I know they’re essential to get the job done, and the have their own jobs and duties, away from the field, it’s just I think the military should take the needs of the grunts into consideration.

        • CSARmedic

          @ Solid5nake98. I believe what Mike meant was that you’re in no position to call anyone a POG unless you’ve gone through the military “vetting” process.
          As for myself, I KNOW you don’t speak for ANYONE in uniform unless you’ve been vetted. Please stop behaving like you understand what we are thinking and/or experienced just because Daddy and Uncle have been there. You haven’t so stop speaking like have.

  • Eric

    Multi Cam has been THOROUGHLY tested and is a great “all around” camo pattern – likely better than the Army’s Scorpion. But the officer-heavy Big Army can’t seem to find its ass with both hands. Witness their desire for a LARGER APC than the already large Bradley.

    And Ron, it appears, from you comment on the “suckines” of Real Tree and other hunting camo patterns that you haven’t done much hunting, like say turkey hunting or archery hunting, where effective camo patterns are essential.

    Too bad the Big Army isn’t as good at testing and adopting new gear as is the U.S. Marine Corps. But that’s like comparing an overweight pack-a-day smoker to a marathon runner when comparing Army to USMC testing and adoption programs.