No hiding it: US military is crazy for camo

The armed forces had 2 types of camouflage in 2002. Now there are 10. And it's no small cost to taxpayers.

By Bruce Kennedy May 10, 2013 7:27AM

A US Marine Corps Drill Instructor salutes during a dawn ceremony for new Marines on January 8, 2011 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina (© Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)Camouflage is meant to help conceal, but there's no hiding the fact that camo has become a costly matter of pride among the different branches of the U.S. armed forces.

The Washington Post reports the U.S. military went from just two types of camouflage uniforms in 2002 -- green for forests and brown for the desert -- to at least 10 now.

And according to a Government Accountability Office study commissioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee, America's military has collectively spent about $12.5 million just on the development of the new camouflage patterns since 2000, with millions more budgeted for purchasing and supply.

According to the study, the Department of Defense encourages, but doesn't require, the standardization of uniforms and other clothing to reduce costs. However, the Marine Corps and Navy had their service logos printed on their customized camouflage patterns during manufacturing.

So while the Army hypothetically could adopt the Corps' uniform, the study wryly states that idea is precluded by "the prevailing military service culture that places a high value on having distinctive and unique combat uniforms." It also notes none of services have partnered on BDUs or DCUs -- that is, Battle Dress Uniforms or Desert Combat Uniforms -- since 2002.

The GAO study ends by recommending the military be issued "clear policies and procedures" to develop joint standards for their camo and use those policies to streamline savings in the development of future uniforms "to reduce inventory and overall procurement costs."

But as the Post explains, duplicate government programs have a long and expensive tradition in Washington, D.C., and certainly within the military.

"Multiple agencies do the same job at the same time," it says, "and taxpayers pay billions for the government to repeat itself. The habit remains stubbornly hard to break, even in an era of austerity."

More on moneyNOW

May 10, 2013 10:49AM
I spent almost 40 years in the military and working for the DOD.  I've seen way too many uniform changes for the sake of change. Most of the changes accomplished no results.  Uniforms that people liked were replaced by uniforms most didn't like but some General somewhere liked the looks of the new uniform or they wanted to put their mark on the military.  I am sure that there is corruption in the military, but there is also huge egos by 0-6s on up that have a negative financial and morale effects.
May 10, 2013 10:39AM
Was wondering how we can afford to give Syrian rebels $ 100 million but we cannot afford to keep the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds doing air shows.  Once again our priorities are out of whack.  Let's take care of us b4 someone else. I do not care about Syria. Let Israel take up the battle if they are so concerned. They have the military and resources to do so.
May 10, 2013 10:40AM

Not sure why they are whining about the governments cost of the uniforms since the service members are required to BUY these uniforms themselves on their minimum wage pay.  Im sure the sales tag on the uniform is three times as much as what it cost to actually make the uniform. 

May 10, 2013 10:21AM
When I was in the military, we were issued BDUs, which were woodland, designed for Europe.  I was stationed at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, TX.  I could never figure out why we were issued woodland camo in the dessert.  What they should have done is issue everyone (except spec-ops) o.d. green unless specifically needed.
May 10, 2013 10:23AM

I remember when I was in the service, they issued a pregnant battle dress uniform (BDU) for pregnant females.


Why in God's name would a pregnant woman be in battle?

May 10, 2013 11:07AM
May 10, 2013 11:23AM
Man there are a lot of idiots posting on something they have no knowledge of, big surprise!  It's really sad to know such a large group of people will get so bent over the cost of uniforms designed to protect our service members, if any of you had a clue you would know all branches serve a different role in war fighting, and as such even the same uniform in the same geographical region does not always fit the need of the mission assigned.  But those of you who sit on your **** every night getting fatter and stupider just keep assuming you know a damn thing about what it's like to be exposed to an enemy in the field, and when it's your son/daughter/brother/sister/mother/father that we are trying to protect the best we can, then come complain.  For the record, we pay for those uniforms, about $150.00 a set, but you keep letting the media make you believe it's coming out of your pocket morons.... Oh, and "hunter guy"  go ahead, put your wal-mart cammies on and walk outside the wire with me... idiot....  Reversible uniform guy, your daddy must be ashamed of how stupid you turned out...
May 10, 2013 10:21AM
Let them pick any uniform they want since they may die in it.
May 10, 2013 11:41AM
When I was in the Corps. we had OD Green utilities for everyday wear and "cammies" for fleet/field duty.  Marines (and soldiers) dont spend everyday training for combat, there are many support duties.  I never understood WHY they now wear $100 state of the art cammies to paint, pick up trash and grease trucks......Maybe we shoould save the hi-tec stuff for combat and have a simple utility for WHY do clerks and pregnant women have to wear cammies to sit a desk ????
May 10, 2013 10:25AM

WHAT??? Waste and mis management in military??  What a concept!

May 10, 2013 11:33AM
Funny how the author goes from $12.5 million to a very vague billions a couple of sentances later. more unsubstantiated sensationalism instead of journalism. If we cut back on the uniform costs will the savings go to pay raises so soldiers with families will no longer need foodstamps?  Somehow I doubt it.
May 10, 2013 10:30AM

If different cammo for different environments helps the troops then it is money well spent. What are they supposed to do wear a one for all uniform and stick out in the field of fire just to please the anti-military crowd? Only a leftist liberal democrat would complain about this. More money than this is spent on star studded shin-digs at the whitehouse for obama,his brats, fat a$$ moochelle and all their America hating celebrity pals.

May 10, 2013 10:26AM

the DOD could be cut 20% and we would never see a change in defense capability. 


waste in the DOD is huge and continous.  until someone cuts the DOD budget, there are no reasons for anyone in that industry to knock it off. 

May 10, 2013 12:26PM
You people are bitching about the camo uniforms we wear?? They constantly try to improve them in order to make us HARDER targets! Seriously?? I'm a career Navy man and I've engaged in combat operations on three continents. I have the scars to prove it. If that pattern saves one man's life, it's money well spent. Remember, you sleep in your warm, safe bed at night because me and thousands like me stand on the real RED LINE. We tell those who would do you or your families harm that they will have kill us first to do that. The fat cats in Washington will spend ten times that this week on unless perks, travel, and parties.... I will be thinking about this as I stand post tonight. Hanging head.
May 10, 2013 10:57AM

You can attribute this waste to the Uniform Board of each branch of service.  Someone, usually the ranking officer, gets a wild hair and here comes another change or brand new uniform.  There have been many unpopular, costly, and unattractive uniforms over the decades, especially the 50's USAF 1505 British look complete with shorts, knee high socks, and bush jacket.


May 10, 2013 11:24AM
Make the camouflage uniforms reversible like they were in the Pacific during WWII and it would solve some of the problem.
May 10, 2013 11:25AM
What I'm wondering is why there needs to be camo on Navy uniforms at all.  Hello, haze gray and underway?  The camo ought to go on that cruiser, that carrier, that supply ship and not on the men and women.
May 10, 2013 11:05AM
.......pick the two or three best and leave it at that  ---It's so simple !!
May 10, 2013 10:32AM

The colors & patterns are fine.  Where they're failing is in the pixel shapes (the size is fine).  The square shape only suits urban terrain.  For woodland & grassland the pixels should be vertical diamonds, desert & snow fields should be horizontal hexagons, mountainous regions would be vertical hexagons, & water needs horizontal diamonds.

If you've read "Jurassic Park", instead of just watching the movie you'll understand.

May 10, 2013 10:36AM
As stated in the article, "the prevailing military service culture that places a high value on having distinctive and unique combat uniforms."  It may or may not have anything to do with the actual surroundings the troops find themselves in.  It is so they can see themselves as distinct from other services.  Just an expensive fashion show for the military. 
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