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Congressional agreement on common combat uniform

Jun. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The days of service-specific combat and camouflage uniforms are clearly numbered as congressional committees have told the services to quit wasting money on their own unique styles.
The days of service-specific combat and camouflage uniforms are clearly numbered as congressional committees have told the services to quit wasting money on their own unique styles. (U.S. Air National Guard / Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones)
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The days of service-specific combat and camouflage uniforms are clearly numbered as the Senate Armed Services Committee has joined its House counterpart in telling the services to quit wasting money on their own unique styles.

The 2014 defense policy bill passed by the Senate committee says that with a few exceptions, the services would be prohibited from adopting new designs for combat and camouflage uniforms as of the day the bill becomes law.

The prohibition would extend to potential new designs using current fabric or camouflage patterns, in the event that the services try to simply move the pockets or change the seams to distinguish their specific uniforms.

The bill establishes as policy the requirement of reducing separate development and fielding of service-specific utility uniforms, saying that to the “maximum extent practicable,” the Defense Department should require the services to collectively adopt and field combat and camouflage uniforms.

This would not apply to special operating forces or to personnel supporting those forces.

Similar restrictions were passed by the House Armed Services Committee in its version of the defense bill, with one key difference.

The House measure, HR 1960, sets a deadline of Oct. 1, 2018, for a joint combat uniform to be in use. The Senate bill had no similar deadline, apparently content to let the services continue using their current unique designs but preventing any new uniforms from being developed unless they are shared across the force.

The Senate bill, S 1197, includes one camouflage uniform provision not mentioned by the House: It would prohibit any service from preventing another service from using their combat or camouflage uniform. That language may have been added with the Marine Corps in mind; the Corps has been highly protective of its distinctive “MarPat” design.

Differences between the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled before a final bill becomes law.

The Senate committee notes that the services generally wore “the same pattern and family of combat camouflage and utility uniforms” before 2002, but slowly launched their own designs.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, “found no performance standards for specific combat environments, no criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of camouflage patterns, and no requirements for the services to test interoperability between their uniforms and other tactical gear, despite the DoD establishing a Joint Clothing and Textiles Governance Board,” the Senate report says.

“The committee continues to strongly urge the secretaries of the military departments to explore additional methods for sharing uniform technology across the services as they develop their combat and utility uniform,” the report says.

“The committee continues to believe that combat and utility uniforms should incorporate the most advanced levels of protection and should be available to all men and women in uniform, regardless of the military service in which they serve.”

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