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MultiCam maker: Camo talks broke down over cost

Mar. 18, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Disagreements over fees for MultiCam, a top-performing contender to be the Army’s main camouflage pattern, have emerged as the main reason the Army has gone in search of a new pattern.

In a rare public statement for Crye Precision, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the MultiCam manufacturer said the Army had selected it in May as its “principle camouflage pattern,” but the decision was derailed after the Army asked Crye to reduce its licensing fees to fabric printers who make uniforms for the Army. When the two sides could not reach a deal, the Army offered to purchase the rights to MultiCam, but they could not agree on a price.

Crye issued a statement Tuesday, which follows pressure on the Army from Congress to cut costs and — in accordance with the 2014 Defense Authorization Act — field camouflage uniforms common to all members of the armed forces.

Officials say the Army is considering adopting the Marine Corps desert and woodland patterns as one option for the new camouflage strategy.

Crye said in its statement Tuesday it had agreed to reduce its fees and offered proposals that would have allowed the Army to buy MultiCam gear at prices within 1 percent of the cost of the pixelated Universal Camouflage Pattern.

But, according to the company, “The Army rejected all of Crye’s proposals and did not present any counter proposals, effectively saying that a proven increase in soldier survivability was not worth a price difference of less than 1 percent.”

In September, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said the Army’s next camouflage uniform should come in different colors for different environments, and the pattern would be similar to MultiCam.

Less than two weeks earlier, the Army had entered into negotiations with Crye for the rights to MultiCam. Crye was one of four industry competitors that were identified as finalists in the Army’s competition for new camouflage.

Army officials have said, on condition of anonymity, that negotiations with Crye broke down over cost. Military.com has reported that Army officials did not want to pay Crye $24.8 million in royalties to use MultiCam, citing an unnamed source.

The company said that under pressure from the Army, it had reluctantly provided a valuation to the service, along with a discounted price. It claims the figure had been misused to represent the company as unwilling to negotiate with the Army as the Army seeks to find cost savings.

As it seeks a new pattern, the Army plans to launch wear tests at Fort Polk, La.; Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.; Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and — later this month and in April — Fort Benning, Ga. It will include a digital design that uses the same colors as MultiCam, Army officials said.

In wear tests, soldiers would use the the camouflage on mock missions, including raids, ambushes and reconnaissance missions. The data gathered from those tests would be used to determine which uniform provides the most operational benefit.

Officials with the program executive office for soldier equipment did not immediately comment for this story.

But Col. Robert Mortlock, the program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times that camouflage is considered “a tremendous combat multiplier,” and the Army is “committed to getting it right.”

Mortlock said the coming tests would focus on blending at the 25- to 50-meter range, evaluated across various “global militarily relevant” backgrounds. After 50 meters, soldiers were unable to pick out a specific pattern, he said.

“What we generally see is it comes down to a blending,” he said. “So at distance, after about 50 meters, the actual pattern on the uniform is not that relevant.”

— Rob Curtis contributed to this report.

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