In late September, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times that the service was nearing a final decision on whether to bring back a much beloved World War II-era service uniform.
More than a month later, no announcements have been made.
But even if Army Secretary Mark Esper announced right now that he has signed off on the “Army Greens,” as they’re now called, there could still be a three-year wait until soldiers have them in hand ― because a rule in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act requires service secretaries to notify the Defense Logistics Agency years ahead of changing a uniform, for the benefit of manufacturers competing for new contracts.
“The NDAA imposes a three-year notification requirement to ensure that DLA could procure and distribute any new uniforms in the most cost-effective manner, and that takes time,” a House Armed Services Committee staffer, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Army Times on Tuesday.
Section 356 of the NDAA includes three parts. First, service secretaries have to give DLA three years' notice before implementing a uniform change. Then, DLA will have to tell any contractors affected at least a year before releasing a public solicitation for new uniform items.
Waivers are possible, but only when delaying a change “would adversely affect operational safety, force protection, or the national security interested of the United States.”
In the case of Army Greens, once Esper gives DLA the go-ahead, the procurement organization would need to let Marlow White, the current manufacturer of the Army’s service and mess uniforms, know of the opportunity to submit a proposal for the new uniform.
“The Army will continue to work closely with Congress in its oversight role," Army spokeswoman Col. Kathleen Turner told Army Times on Thursday. "We believe any uniform decision is within the letter and spirit of the law but certainly will work with members and the defense oversight committees should there be any concern.”
According to its website, Marlow White is expecting a final decision from Army leadership between three and six months after a wear test is completed in the final months of this year, and another six to 12 months before the uniform goes service-wide. The Army itself has been tight-lipped on when a decision will come down.
“We are not attorneys, nor government procurement experts, but are curious as to when the official notifications have or will occur,” Kevin Harrington, the company’s president, told Army Times on Wednesday.
Marlow White has been helping with prototypes of the new uniform, he added, and “pinks and greens” were a topic at last November’s DLA Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry.
“Has the notification clock already started if the ‘pinks and greens’ concepts were a topic at an official DLA event?” he said.
No, according to the HASC staffer. Though the Army has been making public moves toward the uniform change for going on two years already, the NDAA rule still applies.
“The law applies to any uniform decision made on or after August 13 of this year,” the staffer said. “Since the secretary of the Army has not made the decision yet, the three-year notification requirement applies.”
While that kicks the can a few years down the road for this uniform, Harrington did see the positives to creating a standard development period for new uniform items.
“The timeline allows manufacturers a reasonable time to develop new uniform patterns, modify machines and train employees,” Harrington said. “The end result is that vendors can be better prepared to manufacturer the new uniforms more efficiently when the transition occurs and multiple vendors will have the time to prepare for a solicitation to allow improved competition.”