Why the Army camo project failed, and is failing

Soldier Systems Daily has one answer. This guy:

“This guy” is COL Robert Mortlock, a guy who hasn’t been with troops in 20 years, and then was a platoon leader in a chemical battalion in Germany. (He did have a company command, but of support troops pampering the caddidiots at West Point). He subsequently became an acquisitions officer, where he’s worked just about exclusively on failed big-ticket programs: several schedule-an-invention missiles, and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Future Combat System. These were ill-conceived and badly-managed programs that turned entire 463L pallets of money into vaporware.

Now he’s brought those same skills to bear on the camouflage program, and what we’ve got is a massive, one-size-fits-all, four-hundred-moving-parts boondoggle, with an earmark for every congressional district and a bonus for every beltway bandit, and nothing for the combat troops but another screwing and a chance to go to war in the abominable day-glo ACU.

They already have a perfectly good camouflage pattern, OCP, or Crye Multicam. The principal problem, for a Beltway guy, is there’s too little growth, graft, and gratification in it; last year, Crye was willing to sign off a license for under $700,000. And this was after a four-phase competition which Crye Multicam won. If the Army wanted unlimited rights to modify the pattern, which it did, the cost went up substantially (to over $20 million)… but that was less by far than the hundreds of millions spent in on-again, off-again testing (all of which has confirmed the unsuitability of Universal Camouflage Pattern of the ACU, always the worst pattern tested and much worse than solid colors or any other camouflage), or the $10 Billion squandered procuring UCP uniforms and equipment, all of which expose our troops to detection and fire.

Even the combat-shy Mortlock admits that the troops like OCP/Multicam. Crye explained a few weeks ago to SSD how the Army — which means Mortlock — has been double-dealing with them right along. If you want the whole tragic story of this inept quest for less day-glo camo, read the whole SSD camo category from oldest to newest.

5 thoughts on “Why the Army camo project failed, and is failing

  1. Aesop

    I stand in awe.
    No one does land war boondoggles like an Army 0-6.
    Clearly a round peg in a round hole.
    Now if only someone would pound him.

    Just once, I’d like to read about a SecDef who called in his service chiefs, and declared every chairborne ranger like this and their combined staffs surplus to needs, effective five minutes ago, and directed their discharge by close of business.

    The day that happens, we have a military again, instead of a jobs program for the military version of Short Bus Special Class.

  2. McThag

    Hmmm, solid colors work better than ACU? OD green is available for no license fee, isn’t it? Even has the heritage and nostalgia thing going for it too.

  3. Nick

    I’ve seen people try to defend UCP by saying something along the lines of “its effective at range”, i don’t know if this is a common argument among the few that try to defend it?, but I imagine the sort of range UCP becomes effective is the sort of range camo becomes irrelevant.

  4. Bill K

    How does one test camouflage? If realism is important, do they dress opposing forces in competing designs and see which side gets discovered first? Or is this all some computer model, about as sound as something coming out of East Anglia?

  5. Stefan van der Borght

    The standard auscam pattern was arrived at partially by matching its component tones to satellite pics of our humungous nation. It’s a good pattern when you’re in scrub but not so flash when you’re playing in jungle, urban, or semi-rural where things are greener. Good ol’ jungle green works well there, though if they brought that back as an option as dress of day some bright spark would insist on starching the things to rival rifle-plate hardness again. What I don’t get is why the Navies (yours, ours, the Chicoms, etc) spent precious money on their blue cammy’s, I mean it’s not like there’s any vegetation matching that colour and I can’t see them hopping over the rail and doing contact drills on the wavetops against seaskimmers. Might be something like gang colours. Inventing camo patterns can’t be all that difficult; the Bundeswehr uses an modified old SS pattern from pre-computer/satellite WW2, and the Swiss pattern looks like its cousin (though I’m iffy about how much red they put in it). If I were ever to consider getting back into the activities where I need to hide in the landscape I’d assemble my own kit and keep the issue gear for inspections and playacting for the desk jockeys.

    There’s a pic at the bottom of this linked page that shows one gentleman’s homemade solution; he’s only stalking buffalo in scrub, and while they don’t shoot back they do weigh about the same as an SUV, accelerate like a motorbike, turn like a rat on rails, and like to stomp things into the ground (because they can). I bet his homebrew cam doesn’t cost millions and billions, and it does look effective for purpose.
    http://aussiehunter.org/hunting/stalking-game/

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