A government watchdog issued a scathing report Friday blasting the U.S. military for the way it has developed camouflage uniforms over the past decade, putting troops at risk and wasting millions of dollars.
The Government Accountability Office picked out the Air Force and Army as extreme offenders among the services lambasting their development of the Airman Battle Uniform in 2002 and the Army Combat Uniform in 2003.
Each service has developed its own camouflage uniform over the past ten years. Military service leaders have introduced seven new patterns -- two desert, two woodland and three universal -- since 2002.
GAO officials urged Defense Department leaders to work together and avoid the "fragmented approach" the different services have used in the past.
GAO investigators issued their report four months before Army leaders plan to pick out a new family of camouflage soldiers. The Army launched its massive camouflage improvement plan in 2009 when its pixilated Universal Camouflage Pattern came under scrutiny from soldiers, lawmakers and the Army test community.
Two studies conducted by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center -- one completed in 2009 and the other in 2006, showed that the UCP performed poorly when compared to multiple camouflage patterns such as the Marine Corps desert pattern and MultiCam.
In June 2009, Pennsylvania's Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who was then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, got involved in camouflage issue. Murtha pushed the service to look for a better camouflage pattern after receiving complaints from sergeants about the UCP's poor performance in the war zone.
Murtha died in 2010, but his directive prompted the Army to launch a multi-phase camouflage effort. Many patterns were evaluated in Afghanistan, but MultiCam was the clear winner for the country's multi-terrain environment.
Critics allege that the Army has wasted $5 billion on uniforms and equipment all printed in the inadequate UCP. The GAO estimates that the Army will have to spend another $4 billion on uniforms and equipment over the next five years when it selects its new family of camouflage patterns.