WASHINGTON - The House approved a measure Friday that would require all branches of the U.S. military to share the same camouflage uniforms - instead of the 10 camouflage patterns in use today.
The measure, authored by freshman Rep. William Enyart, D-Ill., was passed as part of the broader National Defense Authorization Act, which sets the Pentagon's budget. The measure passed 315-108.
That idea needs the approval of the Senate, which is writing its own version of the defense authorization bill. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a measure that would also require the Pentagon to choose just one camouflage uniform, a committee spokeswoman said. The Senate's time frame was unclear, however: A summary of the bill released by the Armed Services Committee says the change should happen "eventually."
Enyart's provision would require all armed services to share the same camouflage uniform by October 2018. It would still allow for variations in that shared uniform, adapted to different environments like woodlands and desert.
Enyart proposed his measure after a Washington Post article detailed the expensive proliferation of camouflage patterns among the services.
In 2002, the entire U.S. military shared just two camouflage patterns - one forest green, one desert brown. But since then, individual services began creating their own patterns. That process became a case study in government duplication: As services repeated one another's work, the results were expensive and uneven.
The Marine Corps spent just $319,000 to develop its widely praised pattern, according to an analysis by the Government Accountability Office. But the Army spent $2.63 million to develop a "universal" camouflage pattern, only to discover it didn't work in Afghanistan. That required a new, Afghanistan-specific uniform at a cost of $2.9 million.
The Air Force spent $3.1 million on a camouflage "Airman Battle Uniform." But after criticism that it provided poor camouflage, the Air Force told airmen in Afghanistan that the uniform should not be worn in battle.
In all, the varying camouflage uniforms cost more than $10 million to develop and millions more to distribute to service members.
"Congress needs to exercise its oversight to make sure we don't do silly things," Enyart said in a telephone interview when the measure was introduced. It was added to the defense authorization bill in the House Armed Services Committee by a narrow vote of 32-30.