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The Most Outstanding Camouflage $5 Billion Can Buy
July 8, 2012 8:47 PM   Subscribe

After spending $5 billion dollars to develop the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), the US Army is abandoning the grey-green pixelated camouflage because it has routinely failed to hide soldiers from view in nearly every environment it has been tried in, and considers adopting the UCP "a colossal mistake" and a "fiasco".

Its adoption in 2004 was driven (it is widely believed) by the feeling among Army brass that the US Marine Corps couldn't be allowed to out-cool the Army with their new MARPAT uniforms, and so the Army had to have cool, hi-tek, futuristic-looking pixels of their own.

While scientific theories about neurology were brought forward as to why pixelation would interact with the human neurology to render a soldier unseeable, the USMC chose pixelation not for its technical characteristics, but because it was easier to print on fabric.

While the search begins for a replacement for the UCP, some soldiers are being issued uniforms in the more traditional (and actually effective) Multicam Pattern. Among the most successful patterns tested was the so-called "Syrian" Camo pattern, itself reminiscent (to some) of the German WWII Marsh Camouflage Pattern
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (171 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought I was obviously stupid for looking at the pixellation and going "wow, that doesn't look like it'd work". I thought, surely there's a reason for it, and obviously they wouldn't adopt a camo scheme without intensive testing to make sure that it was better than the previous one, was it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


Can we have our lives back?
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Science of Digital Camouflage Design
Our concern with ARPAT is that concealment effectiveness has been compromised by the one (multi-environment) color scheme requirement, which seems to be based on budgetary restrictions rather than protection of the individual. Our past research shows a minimum of two different color schemes; woodland and high desert are required for sufficient concealment in global operations.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:51 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I had thought it was to obscure soldiers on pixelated view screens.
posted by drezdn at 8:52 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Essentially, the Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment," an Army specialist who served two tours in Iraq, wearing UCP in Baghdad and the deserts outside Basra, told The Daily.
I think that qualifies as an Army success.
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can we waste $5 billion on new schools and teachers now? Please?
posted by Slinga at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2012 [174 favorites]


I should stop reading. It just gets worse.
“They went to Home Depot, looked at paint swatches, and said, ‘We want that color,’ ” said Anabelle Dugas, a textile technologist at Natick who helped develop the pattern. That particular hue, she added, was part of a paint series then sold by Ralph Lauren.

... the Army brass had watched the Marine Corps don their new uniforms and caught a case of pixilated camouflage envy.

“It was trendy,” Stewardson said.
posted by Miko at 8:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


But the important point is that somebody got rich, right?

Hoo-ray for the free market.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, $5 billion to develop?
posted by carter at 8:55 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Making Sense of Digital Camouflage. Older, but pretty good on what actually makes a digital pattern. It's not about the 'pixelated' design, but rather 'one which has been designed with the aid of computer-assisted design and simulation software, and which also usually involves the use of fractal or pattern-generating graphics software'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:56 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I agree with PG. When I first saw those uniforms, it was pretty obvious to me that they wouldn't work, either.

I wonder how many soldiers have died from this?
posted by double block and bleed at 8:56 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, where exactly did the $5 billion go? Clothing manufacturers, I take it in the U.S.? Civilian jobs? If that $5 billion got funneled back into the U.S. economy, then it's not exactly money wasted. I'm just spitballing because I haven't actually researched this at all, so someone help me out.

But let's say I'm right and most or all of that money went right back to U.S. companies. Then here's the real question: how much of that money went to middle class workers and how much went to management and CEO bonuses and the like?
posted by zardoz at 8:58 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Surely this will result in the impassioned firebrands of fiscal conservatism on the right standing up and screaming, punctuated with splittle and vaguely menacing metaphors, for the de-funding of this wasteful and foolishly managed organization.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:59 PM on July 8, 2012 [35 favorites]


zardoz, please see broken window fallacy.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:00 PM on July 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


....this is such an on the nose metaphor that if it showed up in fiction, I'd balk the hamhandedness.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 PM on July 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


Surely this will result in the impassioned firebrands of fiscal conservatism on the right standing up and screaming, punctuated with splittle and vaguely menacing metaphors, for the de-funding of this wasteful and foolishly managed organization.

Sorry, boys are still kissing boys.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:07 PM on July 8, 2012 [38 favorites]


When I was on deployment in Iraq (USMC), we saw the Army guys going around in their green cammies, and always wondered why the f**k would you want to wear green cammies in a place where the terrain & a large number of the buildings are mostly brown.
posted by AMSBoethius at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


USMC chose pixelation not for its technical characteristics, but because it was easier to print on fabric

They said. Or maybe some folks in on the decision were disappointed with how fast Call of Duty was running on their crappy old graphics cards.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hoo-ray for the free market.
posted by odinsdream at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are about a million people in the army. They each need $5000 worth of gear (body armor, helmet, fatigues, etc). That gear has to have a pattern on it. So when they mention $5 billion it s the cost of replacing the gear. However keep in mind that this stuff gets replaced fairly frequently as it wears out.
posted by humanfont at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


or, you know, almost 1/3 of NASA's annual budget.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:13 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


From the wiki on MARPAT:
MARPAT is also important in that it identifies warfighters as Marines to their enemies, while its camouflage simultaneously helps Marines to remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine Spokesman who, when MARPAT was launched, said, "We want to be instantly recognized as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new uniforms."
Please tell me that's an apocryphal quotation, because if it's not, O.M.G.
posted by darkstar at 9:13 PM on July 8, 2012 [34 favorites]


Slate has it too: Lost in the Wilderness - 'The military's misadventures in pixelated camouflage.'

MultiCam has been fascinating to me in that the SpecOps community recognized its superiority right away, and was able to use it, while the line infantry basically got the shaft. Also, more than one nation is using MultiCam in Afghanistan. Perhaps a glimpse of the future, where military clothing will be determined by location and not nationality - a furthering of international cooperation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:13 PM on July 8, 2012


The pixelated pattern did seem odd to me, but Zebras' stripes work well to keep them inconspicuous, so I'm not sure that it couldn't work.
posted by snofoam at 9:14 PM on July 8, 2012


Mother fucker.

I hate this shit so much. Wasted lives, wasted money... jesus christ.

When they say 'scientific theories were brought forward' to defend the pattern, I wonder if there were any conflicting theories that were ignored? Not that it mattered. Bottom line, and all that.

I just hate this shit. Things that go through half-baked, resources gone, time and money wasted. Usually for the sake of unnecessary expedience or for quieting the masses (w/r/t many knee-jerk policies as a response to high-profile events--I'm looking at you, Deepwater Horizon). Ugh.

Sorry, whoo. Swear words and a rant. Just... angry. Kate smash.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:16 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I, too, always thought that the pixel camo looked stupid but that it must be effective because surely an organization as huge and well-funded as the U.S. Army wouldn't adopt something so critical without extensive testing and unequivocal research findings.

Also, five billion dollars? Shit, Mossy Oak probably would've let them use their patterns just for the official sponsorship and a royalty agreement!

Oh, well, at least somebody got rich. Hooray!
posted by Scientist at 9:16 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first time I saw the pixelated uniform was in an airport with troops passing through (to deployment? on leave?). I actually was surprised that it seemed to work pretty well: it was hard to see their outlines against the (busy, ugly) airport carpet. But I suppose there aren't many wars fought in airline terminals.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:18 PM on July 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


I remember a VERY old Beetle Bailey cartoon . . .

(Beetle and his then-girlfriend are coming out of a crowded bar)

"Did you see all those guys in camouflage in there?"

"Yeah."

"Doesn't work too well, does it?"
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:19 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, a minor point that I can't resist making: zebra stripes do not make them inconspicuous, but they do make it harder for predators to tell how many zebra there are, where one zebra ends and the other begins, and what direction the zebra are pointing in. It's basically dazzle camouflage.
posted by Scientist at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


The pixelation isn't the issue. It's the dumb mix of colors.
posted by Pseudonumb at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Some of you may be wondering what's wrong with my pants. Well, they ran out of material when they got to the knee, so don't give me any shit.
posted by XMLicious at 9:21 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back in my youth (eighties) there was a company that had developed a really good camouflage pattern (damn if I can remember which one.) The idea was that most camos were developed to work well close up, but those same patterns were obvious at a distance. So they came up with something that looked more like dazzle camouflage, and worked better at a distance.

Sadly, that still seems to be overlooked.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:22 PM on July 8, 2012


Everyone is, as usual, getting hung up on the pixels. It's not really the pixels - the USMC and Canadian patterns work pretty well (and the USMC woodland pattern is miles better than the old woodland) The Army went with the sickly grey-green color choice. I even had an idiot Staff Sergeant explain to me that it didn't have any black because 'black isn't found in nature.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:22 PM on July 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


If I were in a war, I would pay cash money for clothes that blended in to the landscape.
posted by snofoam at 9:28 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the wiki on MARPAT:

MARPAT is also important in that it identifies warfighters as Marines to their enemies, while its camouflage simultaneously helps Marines to remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine Spokesman who, when MARPAT was launched, said, "We want to be instantly recognized as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new uniforms."

Please tell me that's an apocryphal quotation, because if it's not, O.M.G.


The uniforms of the Imperial Guard are camouflaged in order to protect their wearers by hiding them from sight. The principle is that what the enemy cannot see he cannot kill. This is not the way of the Adeptus Astartes. A Space Marine’s armour is bright with heraldry that proclaims his devotion to his Chapter and the beloved Emperor of Mankind. Our principle is that what the enemy can see, he will soon learn to fear.
- Chaplain Aston, 10th Company, Fire Hawks chapter
posted by xdvesper at 9:31 PM on July 8, 2012 [25 favorites]




My time in Sea Cadets and ROTC and as a kid of a military veteran has me trying desperately trying not to point out that the Army, when it makes mistakes (and every person I know who saw this pattern was like, "that's not going to work,") said mistakes are inevitably huge.

Also, plenty of fiscal conservatives go nuts over waste in military spending, as do most libertarians (a great many of them feeling that the vast majority of all military spending is wasteful.)

Heck, my stepdad is a veteran, incredibly conservative in exactly the way that would render most Mefites apparently incapable of holding a civilized conversation with him, and he rails about this kind of nonsense in the Army (and Navy) all the time. Bonus: he doesn't care about the gay soldiers much; "no one makes a big deal out of it, no one hides" is more or less exactly the day to day Army he both prefers and actually experienced.
posted by SMPA at 9:33 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That third link should have gone here.
posted by Pseudonumb at 9:34 PM on July 8, 2012


A very economical method for testing new camouflage patterns: Print the patterns on cheap vinyl, make inflatable soldiers with the vinyl, deploy inflatable soldiers in war zone, count which one gets shot the least.

Can I get my billion dollars?
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:34 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Pseudonumb, no, it shouldn't have.

Also, "Bunny"? Is that some sort of control group or something?
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:37 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


SMPA: "Also, plenty of fiscal conservatives go nuts over waste in military spending..."

Not the ones who have talk shows, or hold public office. As far as the GOP is concerned, they don't exist.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:38 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


They had introduced pixellated camouflage in Singapore as well after much fanfare (remember, all able-bodied male Singaporeans are conscripted into serving in the forces for two years here)

Seems like folks here are still insisting that pixellated camouflage works in Singapore's combat environments.

(I'm not sure on that one; the decision to be inspired by American combat fatigues smells and feels like one of those you-cant-be-fired-if-you-hire-IBM-style decisions)
posted by the cydonian at 9:39 PM on July 8, 2012


Ahh, Flecktarn. From 1976. Everything old is new again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:39 PM on July 8, 2012


Ya it's not the pixels that are the problem but the single colour choice. Too much compromise inherent in that constraint. Contrast with the Canadian digital pixelated pattern which has four different colour variations.

Pixelated patterns work quite well because they break up the hard edges that our brains use for pattern matching. But if the big blob of colour is too contrasty compared to the background that big blob of colour stands out regardless of the pattern it is formed in. You need at least some of the colour to not stand out against the background so the edges break up.

Camouflage patterns are often counter intuitive. The WWII Dazzle pattern linked earlier is a great example. Up close it makes ships standout like a sore thumb; on the open sea it arguably destroys the ship's silhouette removing the "shipness" of the pattern matching algorithms in our brain.
posted by Mitheral at 9:41 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, the word "warfighters" makes me all irrationally peevish.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:42 PM on July 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Who actually makes these uniforms? Sure the contracts are doled out in Alexandria VA, but dollars to doughnuts the fabric is made and the stitching is done overseas. I seem to remember that the army's berets were going to be made in China but people freaked. Seemed the label "Made in China" was deemed unacceptable.
posted by T10B at 9:43 PM on July 8, 2012


The most amazing part of this is that someone at the DoD finally admitted that they were wrong.

The army doesn't exactly encourage that kind of thinking, and I've got to imagine that the modern US military is full of these idiosyncrasies that nobody ever dares to question.
posted by schmod at 9:45 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This demonstrates the importance of not being seen.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:48 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


FACT: If you look at them from 20 meters away, the pixels on the ass create a portrait of Dubya.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:52 PM on July 8, 2012


I just know this: digital camo patterns are challenging to paint on 28mm wargaming miniatures.
posted by Soulfather at 9:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


In middle school, my band director told us, "If you ever make a big mistake, at least play it with such gusto that it seems right!"

If only that worked for the Army...
posted by astapasta24 at 10:01 PM on July 8, 2012


Yeah, $5 billion to develop?

On reading the articles it's clear the $5B includes actual deployment of camous as well.
posted by smoke at 10:03 PM on July 8, 2012


I looked at the six soldiers in this picture for a while. Marpat clearly performs quite well. Good choice.

Then I discovered there was a seventh soldier. Cadpat is awesome.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:03 PM on July 8, 2012 [32 favorites]


Maybe they should just send everyone to the Milford School.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:04 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oooh ooh ooh can we get them to make bunny the new standard?
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:04 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Conservatives scream about waste, fraud and abuse in government, but then they also scream about cutting defense budgets when there's so much obvious waste, fraud and abuse to be found there that balancing the defense budget should be easy for conservatives--just cut out that waste, fraud and abuse, right? Then maybe buy systems and equipment that actually works?

It says a lot that one of Gates's primary achievements as Defense Secretary was that he successfully fought off a fighter jet that the Air Force just plain didn't want and thought sucked, but Congress wanted so desperately to shove down the military's throat.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:09 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


zardoz, please see broken window fallacy.

Of all things, the $5 billion spent on the camo pattern is supposed to illustrate the broken window fallacy?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2012


there's so much obvious waste, fraud and abuse to be found there that balancing the defense budget should be easy for conservatives

You can't "balance" the defense budget. There are no revenues.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 10:17 PM on July 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Point. Sorry, wrong term. Still... it hurts to think about how much really could be cut from the defense budget without hurting defense one bit. Hell, as cases like this show, some cuts would actually help.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:18 PM on July 8, 2012


Can we waste $5 billion on new schools and teachers now? Please?

Heed broken window fallacy in haste, disregard at leisure.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:23 PM on July 8, 2012


"it has routinely failed to hide soldiers from view in nearly every environment it has been tried in, and considers adopting the UCP "a colossal mistake" and a "fiasco"."

Wow... Didn't see that one coming.
posted by markkraft at 10:36 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Next up, desert ghillie suits.
posted by benzenedream at 10:40 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


How come the Army uses a different pattern from the Marine Corps -- particularly if it costs a couple of billions to develop? This is not a rhetorical question.
posted by moody cow at 10:42 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mr President, Chiefs of Staff, thank you all for coming. As you know we have had some issues with the camouflage our soldiers use. The current model simply does not work as well as it should, it has cost some $5000 per soldier and it has been called "Marine Envy" by some. Well I am proud to be able to present for the first time the new official US Army camouflage at a cost of less than a fifth of the previous version.

I give you the soldier of tomorrow!
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:43 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Modern soldiers don't know anything about camouflage. Recently I attended a convention of ninjas and there was a special seminar devoted to the ancient art of camouflage. I learned a lot.

Most people don't even know there are ninja conventions. You wouldn't know about them, because even the conference announcements are so well hidden that no one can tell when they will happen. If you get lucky enough to show up at a ninja convention, all you'll see is trees and rocks.

They're that good.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:44 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy hell! Where did CADPAT come from!?

I think CADPAT's effectiveness comes from Bunny. In order to really hide CADPAT, you need bunny there as distraction. You visual field just can't get beyond bunny. It's not going to be easy to get soldiers to don the bunny suit, but a certain number of bunnies will be needed to keep the rest of platoon hidden.

So, how do you protect or hide the bunny? Easy. The rest of the soldiers just pass a basketball back and forth.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 10:48 PM on July 8, 2012 [122 favorites]


^Problem solved, ladies and gentlemen.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Please tell me that's an apocryphal quotation, because if it's not, O.M.G.

Wikipedia attributes it to this book, which itself offers only a general attribution ("a USMC spokesman"). Nothing on *.mil or in Google News, though. My confidence is not, as the military supposedly say, high.

I have to say that overall this is pretty astonishing. I mean, camo is a big civilian industry -- you know, hunting (in Wisconsin, you can't escape this stuff) -- and something with pretty close to a century of experimentation behind it in theater, so I would say assuming this was something that was only derived following extensive testing would be ... reasonable.

As for the Syrian pattern, I don't see how it resembles Marsh at all, and the Camo Encyclopedia indicates that it derived itself originally from the traditional US leaf pattern.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 PM on July 8, 2012


There are situations where the UCP camouflage is very effective.
posted by Killick at 11:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


Recently I attended a convention of ninjas and there was a special seminar devoted to the ancient art of camouflage

14:00 - The Hedge. Nobody notices it.

First time I've seen CADPAT (that I know of), it's pretty impressive!
posted by Packed Lunch at 11:09 PM on July 8, 2012


$5B?

Has anyone looked into the price of leaving the camo along and repainting the battlefield to match the troops?
posted by -harlequin- at 11:10 PM on July 8, 2012 [21 favorites]


Oh, hey, in a world with thousands of mis-matched colors in hundreds of environments, one size fits all... didn't.

What a fucking surprise.

So we get to pattern our camo to the most prevalent environment of Iran then? Or is that pipe dream not getting that level of visibility yet?
posted by Slackermagee at 11:15 PM on July 8, 2012


Recently I redecorated my apartment in camouflage. I did all the walls and the furniture and stuff in camouflage print. Now I get home from a hard day at work and I have no idea where I am. So it's kind of relaxing.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:24 PM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


the UCP camouflage is very effective.

Damn. Beat me to it.
posted by mrbill at 11:32 PM on July 8, 2012


I didn't think the pixelated look was exactly chameleon-like. But then again, I also assumed our government would have better research behind our military's camouflage...
posted by rickoshay13 at 11:39 PM on July 8, 2012


Probably like most people, I just assumed the army must know what it's talking about when it comes to something as basic to warfare as camouflage. I forgot to consider all the money and promotions involved in a major redesign of a large army's camouflage system.
posted by pracowity at 11:41 PM on July 8, 2012


Fortunately, the Army even gave us a word for this, 'snafu': situation normal, all fucked up.
posted by readyfreddy at 11:43 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


A few of things come to mind:

Should have asked the guys going to war what they wanted to wear.

Camo uniforms don't fool IEDs.

Worrying about the cost of uniforms worn to fight an unnecessary war seems sort of beside the point.

If contractors can't get rich, what's the point of having a war?

I could go on, but it just gets crazier and crazier.

Not too much has been offered about cammies, how and why they are used. I find myself uncharacteristically agreeing with a Marine, when he said something about letting the enemy know they were about to engage his Marines. Most stuff that seems proper in combat seems sort of counterintuitive in civilian life.

Cammies of any kind are useful under only a limited set of conditions. In my experience a skirmishing unit that is in the assault is more in need of cover than concealment. Some members will be exposed to enemy fire while moving, while others are trying to lay down a base of fire from cover. At some point the entire unit (let's say a platoon, of maybe 30 or so guys) may all go on line, and advance into the enemy positions while firing. When you think about it, cammies aren't much use to guys doing this sort of thing.

Troops in a defensive position have a different problem, under disturbingly similar conditions. If they are defending a base or encampent, the enemy knows where they are. Enemy snipers will take to high ground and watch for movement. Enemy spotters will direct mortar or rocket fire. Cammies don't do these guys much good, either. Their issue is cover more than concealment.

Cammies are useful for such units as Long Range Patrols, sniper teams, and the like. These units are most effective when they sneak into a place and hide there. They typically won't move in the daylight unless they are being chased, in which case they usually leave a conspicuous trail of enemy bodies behind them as they flee, and they try to encourage friendly aircraft and artillery to further mark their passage.

I've seen a few good patterns in use--in recon or sniper outfits. Back in the 1960's, our platoon used tiger stripes or army forest pattern cammies. The Marines used a leopard pattern, or tiger stripes. We got the tiger stripes from Vietnamese Special Forces units. Our regular infantry battalions didn't wear cammies, just the green jungle fatigues.
posted by mule98J at 11:43 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wait, where exactly did the $5 billion go? Clothing manufacturers, I take it in the U.S.? Civilian jobs? If that $5 billion got funneled back into the U.S. economy, then it's not exactly money wasted.

Sitting in a bank in the Virgin Islands
Tied up in real estate in the South of France
Invested in a casino in Macau
A yacht
A face lift
A condo or two
...
snip
...
invested locally
posted by mattoxic at 11:57 PM on July 8, 2012


"Mr. Nesbitt has learned the first lesson of How Not to Be Seen: Not to stand up."
posted by bicyclefish at 12:03 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Recently I redecorated my apartment in bunny pink. I did all the walls and the furniture and stuff in bunny pink. Now I get home from a hard day at work and I think I'm a bunny. So it's kind of relaxing.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:13 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


nebulawindphone: Man, the word "warfighters" makes me all irrationally peevish.
Would you say it makes you... fighty?
posted by knile at 12:18 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Warfighter is supposedly used to distinguish people in the army actually engaged in shooting the bad guys from the people providing the supporting infrastructure. It will probably take 10-20 years before it expands to encompass everybody, and they start using something like combat warfighter.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:29 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't forget my own favorite uniform: the US Navy NWU, which cost at least $226 million. The only thing it is good at camouflaging is stains, and god help you should you fall overboard.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:36 AM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


If we have to call soldiers "warfighters", then can we also start calling military contractors "warprofiteers"?
posted by R. Schlock at 12:37 AM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also area civilians can be "warduckandhiders"
posted by furiousthought at 12:40 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the important point is that somebody got rich, right?

Hoo-ray for the free market.


1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Nately died a wealthy man, Yossarian. He had over sixty shares in the syndicate.
Yossarian: What difference does that make? He's dead.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his family will get it.
Yossarian: He didn't have time to have a family.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his parents will get it.
Yossarian: They don't need it, they're rich.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then they'll understand.

Oh wait...no draft anymore, not many rich kids in the military.
posted by roquetuen at 12:53 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


People have died because of this. Ugh.
posted by litleozy at 1:19 AM on July 9, 2012


There is a case for going with deer hunter fluorescent orange, you know.
posted by falcon at 2:07 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


desert ghillie suits

Picture our troops rolling into battle like tumbleweed.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:20 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who actually makes these uniforms? Sure the contracts are doled out in Alexandria VA, but dollars to doughnuts the fabric is made and the stitching is done overseas.
Burlington Apparel Fabrics of North Carolina. Contract SPM1C1-09-D-0045 appears to require all manufacturing to be done domestically. Burlington names three plants in NC as locations for the contract.
posted by Lame_username at 2:45 AM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would have guessed that the actual purpose of the pixelated pattern, ca 2004, was to look cool/futuristic so that the kids would enlist.
posted by biochemicle at 3:36 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many camouflage patterns secretly contain the word SEX in the pattern. It's hard to notice, and usually it works subliminally. It doesn't help hide anything, but it sells more camouflage.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:38 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure the contracts are doled out in Alexandria VA,

That's incorrect. The specifications are developed by Natick in conjunction with the services. The solicitations are issued by people sitting a few hundred yards from where I'm currrently sitting, in Philadelphia. The Berry Ammendment requires that it's all USA made. See the beret fiasco for some background. This is a colossal fuckup, but we are under such intense scrutiny that it's a wonder any contracts get awarded.
posted by fixedgear at 3:49 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Soldiers buy their own uniforms. Theirs was the money wasted.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:51 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can we waste $5 billion on new schools and teachers now? Please?

Do you mind if they are heavily armed and wearing ineffective pixelated camouflage?
posted by srboisvert at 3:54 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]




The only thing it is good at camouflaging is stains,

Since that's exactly what the Type I was designed for (seriously), it seems to be working.

Soldiers buy their own uniforms.

I don't know about soldiers, but sailors get 'organizational gear,' which covers battle dress, isssued.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:15 AM on July 9, 2012


People have died because of this. Ugh.


I'd guess this has led to very few casualties in the current wars. There hasn't been a lot of hiding style warfare going on. The primary use of soldiers seems to be for them to be seen to be present and the majority of casualties are due to bombs.
posted by srboisvert at 4:21 AM on July 9, 2012


I think CADPAT's effectiveness comes from Bunny. In order to really hide CADPAT, you need bunny there as distraction. You visual field just can't get beyond bunny. It's not going to be easy to get soldiers to don the bunny suit, but a certain number of bunnies will be needed to keep the rest of platoon hidden.

Corporal Smith was a bunnyman. He had gone through six weeks of intensive Obvioiusness training at Bunny School, part of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS), learning to call attention to himself under nearly any environmental or social condition. Sometimes it was as easy as standing up and waving, other times he had to arrange to be in line at the Starbucks whenever the enemy sniper was in line for a coffee, to nod as if he knew him from somewhere... in the field of operation, a pause required for thinking "Hey, I know that guy from somewhere" is lethal, as the bunny's squadmates, nearly invisible next to the man in a pink fuzzy uniform doing "the robot", would target and eliminate the enemy in that time.

Today, Corporal Smith's platoon was up against a mercenary unit comprised entirely of reality show contestants. It would be his hour - the moment he would go down in the annals of history as the best Bunnyman of all time. All he needed to do was get them to shut up and look at him a moment. .. it would take all of his natural skill and intensive training.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:30 AM on July 9, 2012 [35 favorites]


the contracts are doled out in Alexandria VA -- Curious, why Alexandria? The Pentagon is in Arlington.
posted by crunchland at 4:36 AM on July 9, 2012


CADPAT is so old-school I keep expecting to see Mario in there.
posted by scruss at 4:36 AM on July 9, 2012


"According to the Berry Amendment, USC, Title 10, Section 2533a, Department of Defense officials are required to give preference in procurement to domestically produced and manufactured products, most notably food, clothing, fabrics and specialty metals. Congress originally passed domestic source restrictions, as part of the 1941 Fifth Supplemental DOD Appropriations Act, to protect the domestic industrial base in the time of war."

There was a time when this announcement (complete retool) would have been cause for celebration in Selma, Alabama, since we had a production facility there that manufactured field jackets for the Army and the Air Force. By manufactured, I mean they cut the fabric, assembled and finished the jackets, and shipped them from Selma. It was a dark day in 1977 when that factory lost the contract and closed, and I think it put nearly 400 people out of work (about four percent of the adult workforce).

These are now manufactured (per the label in this field jacket) by the Golden Co, USA. Golden Company sources their production through Goodwill of South Florida. The Skilcraft t-shirts which conform to military specs for uniform wear are produced in the USA by the blind.

Somebody, somewhere did something right, at least in field jackets and t-shirts.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:45 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]






falcon: There is a case for going with deer hunter fluorescent orange, you know.

Not to distract from the main topic, but notice this paragraph at the bottom of the linked Guardian article, Iraq war logs: How friendly fire from US troops became routine:
One night in October 2006 a British patrol, festooned with the blue light sticks, agreed on as a sign to identify themselves as friendly, reported they had been shot at by US troops who had no night vision goggles and had been listening to their iPods.
Say again?
posted by cenoxo at 4:53 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


A percentage of the awards are set aside for NIB/NISH/JWOD vendors. The price is determined by the award price made to the non-sheltered workshop vendors, then the workshops are offerd the work.

We don't do too many set-asides in the Subsistence directorate where I work (most of our dollars go to firms like SYSCO, Labat and US Foodservice, with the remaining chunk going to vendors that make MREs, UGRs, etc) but it's common practice in Clothing and Textile where the uniforms are purchased.

Once again, all of this procurment takes place in Philadelphia, not Virginia. Pentagon fraud! That's juts lazy reporting.
posted by fixedgear at 4:55 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"MARPAT is also important in that it identifies warfighters as Marines to their enemies, while its camouflage simultaneously helps Marines to remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine Spokesman who, when MARPAT was launched, said, "We want to be instantly recognized as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new uniforms."

It's been done: Zouaves (images). Elan, although dashing, does not work well against automatic weapons. Besides, they'd have to allow beards.
posted by cenoxo at 5:21 AM on July 9, 2012


Soldiers buy their own uniforms. Theirs was the money wasted.

Soldiers buy extras of their own uniforms. They are issued a bunch of them, and then get a clothing allowance annually to replace things that wear out. And before you go overseas, one of the stops is a warehouse where you get handed even more uniforms (and everything else that's got the pattern on it, such as body armor and pouches). I've never had to buy a UCP-patterned anything.

Yes, some soldiers' money was wasted. But not anywhere approaching $5B.
posted by Etrigan at 5:26 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


On the plus side, now that I've calmed down a bit, this thread has taught me a lot about camouflage.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:30 AM on July 9, 2012


Here is an interesting article on camouflage from The Atlantic, discussed previously.
posted by TedW at 5:47 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never mind the Zouaves, how about the Redcoats. Very effective in large, close ordered formations. And not much use against snipers or machine guns.

I'm amused by the paratrooper picture linked earlier. The Brit looks as if he's trying to hide in a different wood from the rest of them or possibly in a different season. But I can see that pattern working well in light rather than dense wood or for a mix of woods and fields (or even the long grass behind the paras). The American on the other hand just confuses me. What is he trying to hide in? A rock garden?
posted by Francis at 6:03 AM on July 9, 2012


It's better than their previous effort, the ICP
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:15 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think CADPAT's effectiveness comes from Bunny. In order to really hide CADPAT, you need bunny there as distraction. You visual field just can't get beyond bunny. It's not going to be easy to get soldiers to don the bunny suit

The standard Australian Disruptive Pattern Combat Uniform has various rabbit related nicknames for obvious reasons.
posted by zamboni at 6:19 AM on July 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Then here's the real question: how much of that money went to middle class workers and how much went to management and CEO bonuses and the like?

Asking that kind of question will only make you cry.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can everyone who smugly remarked upon the patent stupidity of pixelated camouflage come back in here and tell us their SAT verbal scores? I can't think of what extra shaming is required for those criticizing digital patterns while simultaneously extolling the CADPAT's superiority.
posted by samofidelis at 6:23 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The primary use of soldiers seems to be for them to be seen to be present and the majority of casualties are due to bombs.

I wonder how true this is for all the places military is stationed. The film Restrepo showed soldiers in Afghanistan definitely hiding in trees and shooting -- it seems like camouflage would have helped them there. It is/was(?) considered one of the most dangerous outposts to be assigned to.
posted by bluefly at 6:32 AM on July 9, 2012


Yeah, I think this one is overblown in terms of the amount of money actually "wasted". The $5 billion figure isn't the amount spent just on designing the pattern, but includes buying uniforms with the patterns.

The U.S. Army has about 560,000 soldiers in active duty and again that many in reserve. The UCP went into production about nine years ago. If each soldier and reservist got one uniform per year, that'd be almost ten million uniforms. It's likely higher than that, as these things wear out, especially in combat regions. Call it twenty million. That's $250 a uniform.

According to the Army, the cost of a uniform is... about $210. Higher for officers. Both sets include a coat, two pairs of trousers, and both a long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirt. Which is actually pretty reasonable if you shop anywhere other than the Salvation Army.

So really, calling the entire program a "waste" without discounting the fact that the Army was gonna spend almost that much money on uniforms anyway is missing the point. It's still likely that a few million dollars was spent that shouldn't have been, but I'd be surprised if it was even eight figures. Yes, any government waste is unfortunate, but really, it's a pittance compared to what was going to have been spent anyway.
posted by valkyryn at 6:46 AM on July 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Crunchland- I was thinking of Belle Haven CC- not exactly sure why that one course stuck in my head. Guess I think of Alexandria as the home of deals vs. Arlington as the home of the Pentagon and graveyards and DC as a bunch of museums. Guess you can tell I haven't spent much time in DC. I do find the outsourcing of our military operations and know-how to be an interesting topic though- from GE working with China, to P&W over sharing (with China), to Blackwater/Xe/Academi (now owned by USTC), etc. So I guess it is a constant question for me. God is in the details- of sourcing in this case. Glad to hear fixedgear is keeping people honest.
posted by T10B at 6:47 AM on July 9, 2012


Slap*Happy: "Corporal Smith was a bunnyman."

Please work this comment fable up into a film treatment toot sweet. Also, be sure it is pronounced "BUNnymun," like "Englishman" or "Scotsman" -- not "bunnyMAN".
posted by Rock Steady at 6:48 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Please work this comment fable up into a film treatment toot sweet.

Bonus points if it's called Strikeforce Echo and the Bunnymen.
posted by zamboni at 6:57 AM on July 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


"why are you wearing that stupid bunny cameo?"
posted by The Whelk at 6:59 AM on July 9, 2012


"why are you wearing that stupid bunny cameo?"

I'm hunting wabbits.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Our past research shows a minimum of two different color schemes; woodland and high desert are required for sufficient concealment in global operations.

Oh, I see what happened. The UCP ended up being good "on average". Unfortunately, there is no environment that is the visual average of woodland and high desert.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:10 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]




Slap*Happy: Corporal Smith was a bunnyman.

Today I learned a new name to call our guild's main tank.
posted by The Bellman at 7:27 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish Smedleyman was still a member.
posted by desjardins at 7:45 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Belle Haven CC -- Huh. I drive by that place several times a day. I knew that it was pretty exclusive, and outrageously expensive to be a member there, but didn't really associate it with the military wheeling-dealing that you imply. Thanks.
posted by crunchland at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2012


> abandoning the grey-green pixelated camouflage because it has routinely failed to hide soldiers from view in
> nearly every environment it has been tried in

They've never tried invading 8-bit Super Mario, then?
posted by jfuller at 7:50 AM on July 9, 2012


So, an outsized Imelda Marcos-esque fucking shopping spree because two branches of the military got into an intraorganizational fashion arms race, resulting in expenditures equal to approximately 75% of the annual budget of the National Science Foundation. Awesome.
posted by kengraham at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, I came in to mention the Berry Amendment, too.

Last month I took some guests up to Boston to see the USS Constitution. Besides the inanity of the airport-grade security checkpoint, the Navy camo uniforms (in 90+ heat) were laughably VISIBLE. The opposite of concealment, these service-specific uniforms are apparently intended to make each branch's service members proudly stand out in a crowd. *rolls eyes* Whatever happened to "best of breed" and all that?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:01 AM on July 9, 2012




How come the Army uses a different pattern from the Marine Corps -- particularly if it costs a couple of billions to develop? This is not a rhetorical question.

The Marine Corps is more than just the sea-borne brnace of the US Army, it's own mini-army designed to integrate seamlessly w/ the Navy on whose ships they operate. The Marines are a roll-it-your-own kind of outfit. They bring everything they need when they go to war, and (AFAIK) have fiercely resisted outsourcing much of their responsibilities to "contractors" like the army.

If they wore the same uniforms as regular soldiers, they'd be mistaken for being merely regular soldiers rather than being "The Few, The Proud". This extended to howf Marines could roll their sleeves up. The rolled-up/inner lining on the outside made Marines distinctive at a distance, but was recently disallowed.
[M]any Marines in the fleet are calling foul. Not only does it look sharp, they contend, but it is something they have been doing for about a century. Above all, rolled sleeves sets Marines apart from soldiers, sailors and airmen.
-Back to the original thread topic, people interested in stupidity, greed, waste, hare-brained ideas run amok in US Military R&D, and "Where did all the money go/which retiring General is getting hired by which corporate military contractor" (as well as the military insiders who struggle against the bullshit in favor of getting stuff THAT WORKS), check out The Pentagon Wars about the development of weapons systems like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses
And what's with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:13 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


This article from Stripes, linked from the main article, reports that the (presumably) Velcro fasteners are also an issue:

Sgt. Michael McCormick, 23, of San Diego, added that any new uniform should do away with the fabric fastener pockets and attachments that are on his ACUs. "[It] gets dusty or dirty and it doesn’t work anymore. You can’t keep your sleeves or collar down and it’s not tactical. If you have to adjust something during a mission it makes a loud noise."

The idea of putting noisy Velcro on soldiers' pockets seems so obviously a terrible idea. (Until silent Velcro becomes a reality.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


How come the Army uses a different pattern from the Marine Corps -- particularly if it costs a couple of billions to develop? This is not a rhetorical question.

Parochialism.

Every explanation for the differences in camouflage is going to seem incredibly stupid, because it is. So very, very stupid. There is really a ridiculous number of different uniforms being used within the military and it's incredibly wasteful, even beyond the specific failure this FPP is about. I support a standard uniform, especially if that uniform is MARPAT. From what I saw, I'd choose MARPAT over MultiCam.

And also, ACUs suck for many reasons in addition to the stupid colors. They rip easily, stain easily, the pattern fades quickly (so you've got uniforms that are closer to white than the already awful green-grey), the collar sucks, some of the pockets suck, the zipper sucks, and velcro is of course the worst idea ever. US Army soldiers were simply not wearing a good, high quality uniform to Iraq and Afghanistan for several years.
posted by lullaby at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Huh. I didn't see this coming.
posted by vers at 10:21 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ok, it's useless in battle, but it's perfect for hiding on a couch!
posted by zsazsa at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was a fashion statement.

If you're going to fight, clash!
posted by BrashTech at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Marine Corps is more than just the sea-borne brnace of the US Army...

Sorry Pirate-Zombie-Baretneder-Monkey, I couldn't let this stand:
In the civilian leadership structure of the United States military, the Marine Corps is a component of the United States Department of the Navy, often working closely with U.S. naval forces for training, transportation, and logistic purposes; however, in the military leadership structure the Marine Corps is a separate branch.
BTW, I'm a former Coastie, which is also it's own branch of military service, but in time of war can be seconded to the Navy.
posted by ElGuapo at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


sheesh, I guess one good typo deserves another Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey
posted by ElGuapo at 11:20 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's hear it for using subjective judgement for things that can actually be studied empirically!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:22 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ok, it's useless in battle, but it's perfect for hiding on a couch!

That would work even better if the couch were also made of camo...
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2012


zamboni: "The solid color uniforms also show wrinkles in the fabric more predominantly, and often a small stain or spot of paint renders a solid colored uniform not wearable. A multicolored uniform alleviates those problems, as well."

You'd think that, after 200+ years, the Navy would have finally acknowledged that working on boats is messy, accepted that fact, and moved on. Instead, they've developed institutional OCD about uniform cleanliness...

Instead, they design a uniform that hides stains (which, really, I'm fine with), but also virtually guarantees the drowning of any sailor that falls overboard. Just......why???
posted by schmod at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It does seem like to worry about hiding stains is awfully perverse. If bad hygiene is still a threat on long sea trips the way it was back before penicillin, then you still want everything to look like a chef's uniform with bellbottoms. If bad hygiene isn't a problem anymore, then — it seems to me — you want to relax and focus on what is important.

But then I don't know. A lot of what the military does is really pretty shamelessly just about image and group psychology. And that stuff actually matters — morale and cohesion are important. If this is really just "wearing camo makes us feel like real warriors" (a word that makes me almost as twitchy as "warfighters" but again seems to be great PR and great for morale and that's obviously why they do it) then I'm actually fully willing to believe that that's important enough to outweigh the disadvantages.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mental Wimp: Ok, it's useless in battle, but it's perfect for hiding on a couch!

That would work even better if the couch were also made of camo...
No, then they'd look like a brightly-dressed soldier floating mid-air on something you can't see very well.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:35 PM on July 9, 2012


Erm, hahahahahaha, NO. In the Navy, you pay for your *takes a deep breath*:
Cami uniforms (4 sets of overshirt + pants),
dress whites (2 sets consisting of pants, shirt, + handerchief(s), + a $60 cover),
dress blues (1 set consisting of, for women, a white shirt, jacket, pants, collar tab)
dress white/blue coat,
raincoat + liner,
coveralls (2 pair),
"peanut butters" (2 sets consisting of tan shirts and black pants + thin black dress socks + cover(s)),
winter gear (1 heavy gloves set, 1 lighter gloves set, 1 scarf, 1 ski mask, 1 hat),
white shirts (to go under PBs, coveralls, whites, blues),
PT gear (2 sets of yellow shirts and blue shorts + one pair of sweats, and 1 pair sneakers),
however many pairs of granny panties and socks (black boot, black thin, white PT),
and your assorted shoe shine, stamping, and sewing kits.

I know I'm missing other items....like, oh, towels.
This also doesn't include such items many buy almost immediately upon getting out such as:
Thicker boot socks,
those wrap-around-the-head ear muffs,
long underwear and/or woolen hose (I get cold in winter, a'ight? and cold camis are COLD),
more blue cami shirts (since the neck stretches out fairly quickly),
more blousing straps (to tuck up and under your pants when wearing the boots),
and of course your various ribbons, pins, ribbon bars to keep 'em looking nice, name tapes, collar and cover devices, better shoe polish, quick shoe shine (for those "Oh shit who did you say was touring the building today?" moments), other various items and, *drum roll* extra camis.

The camis fade quickly for upwards of 500 dollars for 2 pair. Like, in a year. I once had a Chief tell me I should be buying 2 new pairs every year.

Don't forget, however, that not everyone can sew. Heck, I'm a non-sewing woman. So I pay to get my uniforms looking nice.
You will also have a regular dry cleaning bill, depending on how often you do colors, attend awards ceremonies, funerals, other special occasions....
Oh, and of course you know your boots will be too scuffed to blacken and shine over, depending on how you walk, within 2 to 3 years...

Yes, you get a clothing allowance but...I'm willing to bet that the best maintained uniforms requires a decent bit more of your own money than what the Navy pays out to you. I wish I'd kept track of such expenses right from the start. I mean, just classing up and purchasing the required change-of-rank items (including PB collar and cover devices) + services to sew the new ones on must cost at least $50 to $60 dollars, unless you know someone who can give you their old pieces.

*Whew* That was longer than I was expecting.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:43 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I meant to say: Your uniforms and assorted items are taken out of your first paycheck. Otherwise, I think I'm owed a hefty amount for that damn (but delectably warm, thank you) hooded cami jacket + liner.

I'd also have found a better, more efficient deal on gloves, a warmer scarf, warmer hat, etc.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Erm, hahahahahaha, NO. In the Navy, you pay for your *takes a deep breath*:
Cami uniforms (4 sets of overshirt + pants)...


On a semi-related note, I learned somewhat recently about the term "Frocking", where a newly promoted officer get's to unofficially take on the rank and insignia of the grade they've been promoted to, but don't get official recognition (or a pay raise) until it's made official.

The term comes from the "Age of Sail" when frock coats were the symbol of an officer. When orders promoting you (and ordering you to a new duty station) came to your ship, one would leave one's old frock coat behind as a hand-me-down to the guy being promoted behind you. Presumably one would buy a new coat with the raise one was getting at one's new station.

And now I'm wondering... how much of a hand-me-down culture is there in the modern military? I mean, given that what they get issued often sucks and have to go out-of-pocket for really important things.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2012


It's better than their previous effort, the ICP

What are you talking about? I can't see a single human being in that ICP demonstration.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2012


It's better than their previous effort, the ICP

Fucking camouflage, how does that work?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I meant to say: Your uniforms and assorted items are taken out of your first paycheck.

I can understand this methodology as an incentive to personnel taking care of their uniforms. But the money to pay for the unforms still comes from the same source, whether it passes through the serviceperson or not.
posted by Miko at 1:41 PM on July 9, 2012


As far as I'm concerned, the Air Force uniform (ACU) is even worse.

Once the Marines and Army had their spiffy-looking new ones, the Air Force couldn't be left behind. (And I don't mean to sound overly cynical on this point -- there is reasonable justification for not wanting your service to look like it is stuck in the 1980s.)

But here's the thing: At least the Army really re-thought their uniform from the ground up. Not so the Air Force. They mostly just went looking for a new camo scheme. But they didn't do any kind of optical testing or anything. They just took the Vietnam-era tiger-stripe pattern, digitized it to look modern, and changed the color scheme. At least the army did some comparison testing that was focused on visibility.

(In fact, the first draft of the ACU color scheme actually had blue in it. This was roundly ridiculed, and so it was re-issued in something closer to the Army colors.)

That's not to say the ACU is all bad. Just the fact that it is wrinkle-free is huge -- unlike the BDU, you don't have to be pressing or dry-cleaning it all the time. And the new pen slots on the sleeves are good. So it's definitely a step up from the BDU.

The biggest criticism of the ACU has always been that it's just too damn hot. Only last month has the Air Force finally gotten around to approving a lighter-weight variant.
posted by Alaska Jack at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2012


Wow, that couch picture has been linked to four times so far.
Maybe the later posters couldn't see it?
posted by mrbill at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alaska Jack, ACUs are Army Combat Uniforms. The Air Force uses ABUs, Airman Battle Uniforms.

I hope the lighter ABUs are worthwhile, though. I wore DCUs in Iraq in 2004-05 and was very happy that ACUs weren't as hot until I discovered that ACUs were cooler but also less durable.
posted by lullaby at 2:43 PM on July 9, 2012


The most amazing part of this is that someone at the DoD finally admitted that they were wrong.

Somebody had to admit that they were wrong so that they could spend another $5 Billion on the new uniforms.
posted by Revvy at 3:01 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the amount of money the United States spends on our military, I expect our forces to take the field with the finest food and equipment and live in the best facilities in the world. No one is really surprised by yet another shameful Pentagon boondoggle, least of all me. However, it makes me very angry indeed when brass hats line the pockets of their profiteer buddies while simultaneously putting the men and women whom we have trusted them to command in mortal peril because, "It was trendy."

It makes me angrier still when they then treat anyone wounded as disposable because, as a retired Marine Corps general and former Obama advisor said, "…when any organization spends so much on its employees it has 'big problems.'"

If we could not afford the entirely foreseeable cost of treating the wounded, even taking care of their every need for the rest of their lives when necessary, perhaps we should not have started two wars. At the very least, perhaps we should not have reduced taxes again after it became clear that our forces would remain under arms overseas for many years to come.

What is an army without soldiers or a navy without sailors? Nothing but empty buildings, unmanned equipment, and rusting hulks. A military is the people who wear the uniform. You'd think a general would know that better than anyone.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2012


Say what you want, but UCP is still the best camoflague for hiding in lossy JPGs or Japanese genitals.
posted by blueberry at 4:28 PM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


lullaby - quite right! Just a typo, thanks for catching.
posted by Alaska Jack at 5:28 PM on July 9, 2012


Oh! Oh! I almost forgot the best part. Tiger Stripe Products, a firm that specializes in these kinds of things, was tasked by the Air Force to help lead the project to develop a new uniform.

In what has always seemed to me to be very embarrassing for the Air Force, TSP then turned around and apologized to Air Force members for the results. Here's a sample quote:

Against our professional recommendations, Air Force Leadership chooses blue/gray colorway which is soundly rejected by entire Air Force community ... We're sorry. We wished we had had the opportunity to give you an authentic battle uniform with all the relevant features plus an effective camouflage design. At the very least you could have had a uniform with a State-of-the-Art Tiger Stripe pattern and colorway unlike what was chosen.

The men and women of the Air Force have our undying support for the difficult jobs that you all perform for our country. Is this new adopted camouflage and uniform design an Airman Battle Uniform or an Airman Barracks Uniform? Maybe it's just according to your own definition. Judge for yourself.

posted by Alaska Jack at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2012


I bet it works great in Farmville.
posted by four panels at 5:57 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was obvious from the start that anyone who claimed ONE camo pattern could work equally well in arctic, forest, jungle, and desert was one of the people who would profit highly from this scam.

I especially loved when they had the first US troops arriving in Irag in 2003 in forest camo.
Practically invisible!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]




Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but:

"Air Force," to this uneducated laywoman, means that they're in planes. So why do they need camo?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on July 10, 2012




"Air Force," to this uneducated laywoman, means that they're in planes. So why do they need camo?

It's that butt-ugly dirty-gray-with-tiny-color-squiggles used in airline upholstery. I bet you haven't even noticed the platoon of air force warfighters hiding beneath the seats in most commercial flights.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:42 AM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Most of them aren't actually in airplanes. There are Air Force medics, Air Force intelligence, Air Force EOD, Air Force security forces, Air Force combat controllers calling in airstrikes, and so forth, all on the ground. Plus for a while now the Army has been requesting USAF (and Navy) personnel to fill in slots in support positions, although they typically wear Army uniforms in those situations.

Most of those people don't need camo, exactly, but the USAF has had some kind of camo utility uniform for many years for any other Air Force personnel who aren't air crew or have no other need to wear a flightsuit/coveralls.

Of course, airmen who actually need some kind of camouflage in Afghanistan aren't wearing the Air Force camo uniform (ABUs), anyway, they're wearing MultiCam...
posted by lullaby at 8:57 AM on July 10, 2012


I've always liked old-school Vietnam tiger stripe and the OD green jungle fatigues myself (slant pockets!). I also dig the highly ineffective as camo but weirdly fetching aesthetically pattern "night desert" from the Gulf War.

I do have a pair of ACU pants in this UCP pattern (in my perfect fitting but hard-to-find size X-Small-Long) made by American Apparel Inc. of all places-so yeah, maybe a small bit of that 5 billion actually went to US workers (but more likely, mainly into Dov Charney's pockets).
posted by mizjana2u at 12:26 PM on July 10, 2012


Francis: Never mind the Zouaves, how about the Redcoats. I'm sorry you posted that - it destroys the myth that British Officers wore red so that their bloodstains would not frighten the men. But I don't think it changes the common (and certain) knowledge that French officers wore brown breeches for similar reasons.
posted by falcon at 12:00 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: "The Science of Digital Camouflage Design
Our concern with ARPAT is that concealment effectiveness has been compromised by the one (multi-environment) color scheme requirement, which seems to be based on budgetary restrictions rather than protection of the individual. Our past research shows a minimum of two different color schemes; woodland and high desert are required for sufficient concealment in global operations.
"

Let me get this straight: it's basically a copy of MAPAT, which is a copy of Canada's CADPAT, which Canada helped the US develop (and by "helped" apparently they gave the US the design and they turned around and changed the colors but not even the pattern, that is it) and the reason it failed was because $5 billion was not enough to offer the patterns in two colors?

Why the conservatives seem so happy to support military spending is beyond me. Of all government programs, seems like the military is the biggest money sinkhole there is.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:03 PM on July 13, 2012


I really have to admire the optimism abd open mindedness of army planners. To think they would need cameo for a terrain other than Iraq and Afghanistan for the last decade was pretty flexible on their part.
posted by humanfont at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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