The services have spent billions over the past decade to develop and field at least 10 camouflage designs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
And they’re not done yet: The Army, which fielded new camouflage designs in 2005 and 2010, is studying whether to invest another $4 billion over five years to develop and field yet another camouflage solution.
Call it a triumph of form over function: Most of these uniforms don’t do what camouflage was intended for — concealing troops in combat. Some were supposed to but didn’t prove effective; the Navy’s blue “aquaflage” hides nothing but paint and coffee stains.
Now the House Armed Services Committee has taken a step toward reining in the uniform madness. In its version of the 2014 defense budget, the panel prohibits any service from developing another camouflage uniform item unless it is intended to be a joint uniform shared by all.
The measure takes aim at top officials who aren’t satisfied to conceal troops in combat, but also want the uniforms to be distinct symbols of their services, to “stand out” in a crowd of troops. It also highlights the waste that was tolerated through a decade of war.
For decades, the services shared the same uniform. Only when the Marines set out to improve on that design — and be different at the same time — did they diverge. The result was waste on a massive scale.
The Senate should back the House plan, and the services should get back to basics — and quit competing to see who can create the coolest uniform.