The baggy camouflage uniforms currently worn by American troops in Pentagon corridors and in Middle East combat zones may not look flashy, but they aren’t cheap.
After having just two basic uniforms in the 1990’s, members of the military services in recent years have started sporting seven outfits, all with different patterns and colors. The design costs alone have been $12.5 million.
The profusion of styles reflects the robust and enduring tradition of the four military services to go their own way, a circumstance that can cause blurry eyes from the mashup of disparate green, grey, and brown tones when soldiers from different units deploy to the same locale.
But it’s not just a fashion faux pas, according to a new, 199-page report by the Government Accountability Office that examined programs and purchasing at 26 federal agencies to look for needless overlap and duplication.
The fragmentation boosts the costs — the Pentagon’s tab in fiscal 2011 for its camo couture was $300 million — and also produces garb that in some cases lacks a rigorous connection to research about how to remain hidden, according to the report.
The problem is about to get worse: The Army is considering replacing its battle uniform for the third time in 11 years, with three separate new uniforms of its own — including helmets and body armor — printed with “desert,” “woodland,” and “intermediate” camouflage patterns. The GAO estimates this new line of fashions could cost the government $4 billion to purchase over five years.
Of the four services that developed new uniforms in the 1990s — the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines — only the Marines appear to have done a proper job, according to the GAO.