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ARMY TIMES: Camouflage Pattern of Failure

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Published on Oct 21, 2009

Matthew Cox for the Pulitzer Prize!

My editorial comments are in [ ] on the video. The full article is too long to post below--but its on the video.

September 28, 2009 Army Times, Pages 22-23

YourArmy

Pattern of failure

The Army knew by 2006 "UCP" a poor choice

By Matthew Cox
mcox@militarytimes.com

The Army has known since 2006 that it outfits Soldiers with an inferior camouflage pattern — but has taken no action to correct the problem until now.

Two studies by the Army Natick Soldier Systems Center and one by Army Special Operations Com­mand show that the Army's "Uni­versal Camouflage Pattern", now criticized by Soldiers and Con­gress, performs poorly when pitted against other camouflage pat­terns.

The two-year study completed in March 2009 confirmed what Army experts concluded in 2006: that the Army's "UCP" is less effective than other patterns available since 2002, well before the Army adopted the current camouflage for the Army Combat Uniform.

Officials released the 2009 Nat­ick study Sept. 14 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Army Times. Although the Army demonstrat­ed the ability to rapidly field other changes to Soldiers' combat equip­ment during the same period — the latest advancements in soldier and vehicle armor, for example —officials failed to move with the same urgency when it came to effective camouflage.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chair­man of the powerful House Appro­priations defense subcommittee, took up the issue in mid-June after hearing complaints from "a dozen" Army noncommissioned officers who told him the ACLFs pattern is ineffective in Afghanistan's brown and green countryside. Murtha gave the Army until Sept. 30 to come up with a new pat­tern. "We want to work with the Army to ensure that the current uniform is the right camouflage pattern and that it is fielded imme­diately," Murtha told Army Times.

Army officials briefed Murtha on Sept. 11 about the plan they are launching that includes a camou­flage field test in Afghanistan. The effort could lead to the selection of a new camouflage pattern for Afghanistan by December.

But at the same time, they are preparing to order 57,000 light­weight armor plate carriers — also for use in Afghanistan — using the "UCP" pattern the Army has deter­mined doesn't work well there.

In a Sept. 14 interview with Army Times, Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, ques­tioned the seriousness of the cam­ouflage pattern's shortcomings in Iraq or Afghanistan. "I have not seen an ONS [operational needs statement] from either theater say­ing they have a camouflage prob­lem: 'Go get me an alternative,'"

Fuller said. "This is the challenge that we do have — on one side we are trying to be responsive, and on the other side, we are trying to be responsible. If we hear a Soldiers say, 'We have a problem,' [then] show me the problem."

Those problems are well-known to Army leaders familiar with the service's own studies of the issue.

The most recent of these, "Photo-simulation Camouflage Detection Test," conducted by U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Develop­ment between March 2007 and March 2009, pitted the current "UCP" pattern against alternative camouflage patterns. Four outper­formed the Army Combat Uni­form's "UCP".

The marine corps desert digital, MultiCam, Desert Brush and a Syrian military pattern all "improved the Soldier's visual detectability by decreasing the detection distance by a minimum of 16 percent in the desert and woodland environments as com­pared to the target wearing "UCP"," the report states.

All four patterns performed 16 percent to 36 percent better than the "UCP" across the woodland, desert and urban settings of the test, the report shows.

Army Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request Aug. 18 after Army officials refused requests for the report. It was delivered nearly a month later.

According to the 2009 Natick report, the first Natick stud; called "Computerized "Visual Cart ouflage Evaluation," conducte between November 2005 and Jul 2006, found that "MultiCam performed significantly better thai the 'UCP' in most conditions."

Army Special Operations Command has tested MultiCam in different environments worldwide including Iraq and Afghanistan, and found that it outperformed the AClTs pattern. It is being con­sidered as the future pattern of Army special operations forces.

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