110420-N-0021M-034 YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 20, 2011) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus speaks to Sailors and Marines from units involved in Operation Tomodachi during an all-hands call at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd Macdonald/Released) (MC1 Todd Macdonald/U.S. Navy)
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Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told reporters on Thursday that he supports the push to reduce the services’ number of camouflage uniforms.
“The notion that we’ve got all this camouflage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” he said at the Defense Writers Group breakfast meeting in Washington. “I think it’s worthwhile to see if we can shrink the numbers here.”
Mabus’ comments follow the introduction of a new bill by House lawmakers that would require a common combat uniform no later than October 2018. There would be some exceptions, allowing variants for geography, such as desert and woodland patterns.
There are at least 10 versions of combat uniforms now, across the services, and more under development. Lawmakers specifically hope to curb the high-costs of such endeavors.
While not explicitly stating the Navy should ditch its aquaflage Navy working uniform Type 1, Mabus did make light of its design.
“The Navy ‘blueberries’ .... that’s what sailors call it. The great camouflage it gives — is if you fall overboard,” Mabus said.
The NWU Type 1 is not technically a combat uniform, so it’s unclear how it could be impacted if this bill becomes law.
But one senior Navy official tells Navy Times the bill certainly puts the NWU in jeopardy. It spells more trouble for the NWU Type 1, a uniform that Navy officials are unsure belongs at sea at all. Recent testing showed the uniform “burns robustly” when exposed to fire and can melt to a sailor’s skin. A working group is underway to determine whether it should be dropped at-sea and replaced with a flame resistant uniform.
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