How the Pentagon spent $28M on Afghan uniforms with the wrong camouflage

The US Department of Defense may have wasted nearly $30 million over the past decade on uniforms for the Afghan military that featured a camouflage pattern inappropriate for the country’s desert landscapes, a top government fiscal watchdog said June 21st.

A 17-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says $28 million has already been spent by the Pentagon on the uniforms — and perhaps another $72 million will go toward them in the next decade.

According to the analysis, the Pentagon decided in 2007 on a uniform for the Afghan National Army that included a camouflage pattern that presented two problems: First, it included a forest pattern for a Middle Eastern country dominated by deserts — and second, the US government didn’t own the pattern, meaning it had to pay a private company for its use.

Afghan National Army soldiers standing out against their environment. Army photo by Pfc. David Devich.

Afghan National Army soldiers standing out against their environment. Army photo by Pfc. David Devich.

The report said that because the Department of Defense opted to use a private pattern, it cost the Pentagon an additional $26 million to $28 million. What’s more, it added, is that the department could have used one of the many patterns it already owns that’s just as effective — or ineffective — as the woodland camouflage pattern.

“Our analysis found that DOD’s decision to procure ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern was not based on an evaluation of its appropriateness for the Afghan environment,” the report states.

“Our analysis found that changing the ANA uniform to a non-proprietary camouflage pattern based on the US Army’s Battle Dress Uniform … could save U.S. taxpayers between $68.61 million and $71.21 million over the next 10 years,” it added.

Applying standard camo. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

Applying standard camo. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

Because the US military continues to use the proprietary design, SIGAR recommended in the report that the Pentagon conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether there is a more cost-effective alternative in outfitting Afghan troops.

SIGAR, a congressionally ordered watchdog group that monitors US financial activities in Afghanistan reconstruction, said it shared its report with the Pentagon and department officials expressed “general agreement” with contents in the report.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the SIGAR report as of June 21st.