This week, Congressional Quarterly jumps in with a 1,500 word Sunday story detailing how Congress has gotten involved.
Interestingly, the Army is playing down the issue of how well its camouflage actually provides camouflage, suggesting instead that soldiers should be focused on how better TTPs can reduce their exposure.
Camouflage uniforms are supposed to help soldiers blend into their surroundings. But that's not what is happening in many instances with the camouflage pattern worn by U.S. Army soldiers.
Instead, the grey, green and tan "universal camouflage pattern" adopted for nearly all uses six years ago has become a new example of the Army's seeming inability to adapt quickly to new combat conditions.
The uniforms were designed mainly with the deserts of Iraq in mind -- though even there, internal Army studies have shown, the camouflage pattern is considered less able to hide its wearer than other color combinations. When the Army began to shift troops to Afghanistan in recent months, soldiers worried that the pattern actually made them stand out in some settings found in that country's diverse terrain, including in landscapes with darker earth, green valleys and mountain woodlands.
Although the Army has been conducting studies of the uniforms since 2006, nothing was done to replace the camouflage -- and perhaps nothing was going to be done -- until influential members of Congress, such as John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, stepped in and ordered it.
If the Army hasn't directed PEO Soldier to find a better solution, then hey, fine. But it seems silly to say "no problem here, move along!" when there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that the pattern is not effective, as demonstrated by soldiers' complaints. This seems a bit like what Ken White was talking about in this SWJ comment thread concerning the Army's head-in-the-sand approach to identifying problems with organic equipment and accepting outside solutions.
Even though the Army is taking steps to field improved camouflage, officials have minimized the importance of the uniforms in concealing soldiers' movements versus other safety factors, such as the time of day the soldiers are moving and the routes they take.
As recently as September, in a report to Murtha on the camouflage issue, Army Secretary John M. McHugh wrote that commanders in Afghanistan have not asked for a new camouflage pattern, and so it is "not a priority from an operational perspective."
McHugh said in his report that the universal camouflage model, despite limitations, provides "adequate concealment across a range of environments."
Moreover, there is no evidence that soldiers have died in Afghanistan because their uniforms made their locations known to the enemy, said Col. William Cole, the project manager for soldier protection and individual equipment at Fort Belvoir, Va., headquarters of the Army's Materiel Command.
Anyway, go check out the article, and see the old camo thread here if you want a refresher.