For years, the Afghan army has tried to emulate U.S. forces. Who knew this imitation would extend to the reckless procurement of ineffective and ridiculous camo patterns?
For the past decade, the United States has spent about $28 million on woodland cammies for Afghan soldiers. This pattern boldly stands out in the vast majority of Afghan environs. In other words, the U.S. has been funding uniforms that make Afghan troops sharp-dressed targets.
This woodland design was approved without proper testing, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Instead, the HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest camouflage was picked seemingly on the whim of then-Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. He found the pattern while Internet surfing.
Not mincing words, Inspector General John Sopko told USA Today the decision was "just simply stupid."
Not only an ineffective pattern, it was also costly. The U.S. has rights to a number of patterns the Afghans could have used. Instead, we as taxpayers are paying a premium on the proprietary HyperStealth pattern, with an estimated markup of 40 percent, the inspector general reports.
It's only the latest in a long stream of wasteful spending Sopko's team has identified in Afghanistan. America's longest war has cost about $117 billion since 2002.
When the uniform news broke, American civilians were perplexed — how could the Defense Department agree to fund such wasteful, ineffective uniforms? Sadly, anybody who has worn camo in the past 15 years is used to it. The services have spent billions in recent years to develop and field nearly a dozen camo designs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
This expensive exercise has led to numerous blunders to include:
- Sailors at sea wearing digital blue "camo" — making them the butt of way too many "don’t fall overboard" jokes.
- Soldiers wearing the grey-green Army Combat Uniform for years, a uniform that couldn’t conceal them in Iraq or Afghanistan.
- The Air Force spending years developing its distinctive "tiger-stripe" uniform, duds that were determined unfit for combat in 2010.
Moving forward, the inspector general recommends a cost-benefit analysis and switching the Afghan camo to a pattern for which the U.S. already has rights. This could save taxpayers $70 million.
DoD needs to expedite a solution. The status quo is just too expensive and embarrassing.