When I was in elementary school in the 1980's and decided i wanted to be a Green Beret the four services were preparing to fight the massive Soviet military machine known as the Red Army. Somehow however, the four services were able to function using one primary camouflage pattern for their uniforms. it was a woodland pattern suited for Europe, parts of Asia and the Americas. When Desert Storm hit the pentagon pulled the now somewhat infamous "chocolate chip" desert pattern fatigues.
While new patterns were tested and a new desert pattern emerged around the time of OEF, the explosion of new camouflage patterns would soon begin. The Marine Corps kicked it off with a nod to the Canadians who had developed a digital camouflage pattern. After OIF the Marines began issuing two digital patterns: a green and brown woodland pattern and a brownish desert pattern. Soon after the Army jumped in with its Universal Camouflage Pattern that was designed to be suitable for many different environments, but remained unpopular. The Army began issuing a different pattern called Multicam in 2010 that has proven to be popular.
This near fetish continued continued in the midst of the GWOT as the Navy introduced 3 new digital patterns: a strange sci-fi blue/green pattern as well as 2 patterns similar to the Marine Corps patterns. The Air Force got into the game with a retro tiger stripe pattern updated with the digital format.
A September 2012 Government Accountability Office report described this debacle as a fragmented approach as putting troops at risk and wasting millions of dollars on what are essentially fashion decisions. No matter how much more effective research and testing can make camouflage patterns, they are still limited in how much any camouflage clothing can conceal the troops on the battlefield. Going forward, all the services should be compelled to accept the Multicam pattern so everyone can get on the same page and then get back to focusing on more important issues like trying to make do with serious budget cuts.