The United States Army is facing flak amid a report that it plans on replacing their Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, with another design estimated to cost $4 billion.
According to the Daily Beast, in 2004 the Army shuttered its two long-standing camouflage uniforms -- one designed for woodland environments and the other for desert environments -- in favor of the Universal Camouflage Pattern, which they claimed would be effective in any setting.
The project was a disaster, costing $5 billion and attracting widespread criticism from soldiers wearing the uniform.
The furor over the UCP eventually got political, the Daily Beast said. In 2009, Congress passed a bill allowing soldiers serving in Afghanistan to wear a uniform called the MultiCam, which they said would be more suited to that country’s environment. But the Army always viewed the MultiCam as a temporary solution for the UCP, which is still the official uniform for soldiers not serving overseas.
A source told the Daily Beast that the Army has solicited designs from companies to come up with patterns that have three variations -- one for woodlands, one for desert and a semi-wooded pattern similar to the MultiCam.
Amid mounting costs -- the UCP cost $5 billion to roll out and the new uniform will cost $4 billion -- critics charge that the Army has wasted both money and time on the uniform issue.
“It is one of the things that drives me craziest about the army I have to admit,” Army Sergeant Matt Pelak told the Daily Beast. “We started rolling it out in ‘05 and everyone was baffled by it.”
“Even currently, in my unit that I’m in now, we wear the normal uniform, the UCP when we’re back on base, but when we go in the field we wear MultiCam,” Pelak said. “We have to carry two uniforms around, one that functions properly and one that’s merely administrative.”
According to the Daily Beast, Pelak said this wasn’t the first time the Army had wasted money, citing the failure of the $20 billion Future Combat Systems program, originally created in 2003 to fund the development of lightweight armored vehicles.
“It’s as ridiculous as buying 20 million humvees to go to war in that weren’t armored and then when the war started they had to build all new humvees that were bullet proof,” he said. “It’s that absurd.”
“People in the military associate certain projects with nepotism, a Good Old Boy network,” Pelak said. “Maybe someone’s brother owns the company that designs the uniforms, or he’s on the Defense Appropriations Committee. No one knows exactly, but there are a lot of theories that all involve some sort of cronyism or backhand deal.”
Another Army source denied those allegations. “It’s not like someone pulled the UCP out of their posterior and said let’s use it,” the unnamed source told the Daily Beast. “They actually did a test and it performed pretty well, but as you can imagine, anything that’s universal doesn’t work that well in all situations.”