Federal Duplication and the U.S. Military’s Growing Camouflage Collection

Mike O'Brien

A Government Accountability Office study commissioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee found that the U.S. military has spent more than $12 million on designing new camouflage patterns.

The combined services have gone from just two kinds of camouflage uniforms in 2002 to the current figure of 10 different types.

It is thought the cost of buying, stocking and shipping all those uniforms is many millions more than the GAO figure.

Related: Soldier Equipment Expo 2013 Free Pass

The range of uniforms will be one of many areas covered in IDGA’s 5thAnnual Soldier Equipment & Technology Expo next month.

At a time when budgets are being squeezed, the uniform issue throws the spotlight on the sheer level of duplication that has dogged the Pentagon, and the government in general, for years.

One prime example, according to the Washington Post, is that there are 209 federal programs to improve math and science skills, along with 16 programs that teach personal finance.

While President Obama and congressional Republicans are trying cut back on federal duplication, the task, it would appear, is harder than first thought.

In a time-honored Washington tradition, multiple agencies continue to do the same job at the taxpayers’ expense.

In the case of military uniforms, camouflage started out as green for the woods and brown for the desert. Then the Marines came out with a new digital design with desert and woodland versions.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Army spent $2.6 million on camouflage research, finally settling on the "universal" design featuring shades of tan, gray and green.

When it was found that the uniforms were not suitable for Afghanistan, the Army came out with Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage at a cost estimated by the GAO of $30 million.

The Air Force then came on the scene, spending $3.1 million on a "tiger stripe" design similar to that used in Vietnam. Enter the Navy and three more uniforms were unveiled in 2011.