Shades of camo

A fascinating article from the Washington Post about one of the biggest beauracratic problems of government – waste caused by duplication – and how the military went from two different forms of camouflage in 2002 to ten patterns today. Surprise – only one or two were made for a good reason.

In 2002, the U.S. military had just two kinds of camouflage uniforms. One was green, for the woods. The other was brown, for the desert. Then things got strange.

Today, there is one camouflage pattern just for Marines in the desert. There is another just for Navy personnel in the desert. The Army has its own “universal” camouflage pattern, which is designed to work anywhere. It also has another one just for Afghanistan, where the first one doesn’t work.

Even the Air Force has its own unique camouflage, used in a new Airman Battle Uniform. But it has flaws. So in Afghanistan, airmen are told not to wear it in battle.

In just 11 years, two kinds of camouflage have turned into 10. And a simple aspect of the U.S. government has emerged as a complicated and expensive case study in federal duplication.

Duplication is one of Washington’s most expensive traditions: Multiple agencies do the same job at the same time, and taxpayers pay billions for the government to repeat itself.

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