Army camouflage: You can’t kill what you can’t see

Author: Robert F. Mortlock, Ph.D.
Publisher: International Journal of Instructional Cases


IJIC, Volume 3 (2019)


This combat uniform camouflage case study encourages critical analysis of a U.S. Army project at a decision point. The case focuses on the decision to change the camouflage pattern on combat uniforms and equipment for U.S. Army soldiers. The combat uniform case study reinforces critical thinking in uncertain environments, documents lessons learned for project management for future application, and provides wide private-sector exposure to the complexities of public-sector acquisition and the balance of testing results and affordability considerations in decision-making.


Decision-making, critical thinking, stakeholder management, project management, defense acquisition

Target Audience and Usage

The case is suited for students concentrating in project management (PM) fundamentals or for functional experts in the PM-related fields of systems engineering, testing and evaluation, business and financial management, operations management, and logistics or supply chain management. The case is written at the graduate or executive education level—ideal for MBA courses. The case can be incorporated into the later stages of graduate- or executive-level course curriculum; used in courses specializing in project/program management, test and evaluation management, operations management, or strategic management; or used in an MBA capstone course. The case is applicable to PM professionals in both the public and private sectors.

Decisions related to the Army camouflage uniform effort involve a complex acquisition environment—requiring decision-making under uncertainty with consideration for performance, schedule, cost/affordability, legal risk, public perception, and congressional oversight. The case is interesting not only to PM professionals but also to warfighters who appreciate the importance of effective concealment for mission accomplishment and safety. Key project stakeholders are passionate about camouflage because it saves lives in combat, and all soldiers consider themselves subject matter experts on uniforms and camouflage—resulting in wide applicability.

The intent of the combat uniform case study is to encourage PM professionals to analyze a U.S. Defense Department program. The case study data enables readers to become familiar with the history of Army combat camouflage uniforms, the basics of combat uniforms in general, and camouflage testing in particular. Readers of the case analyze alternative strategies for the Army path at a critical decision point. The analysis involves critical thinking, stakeholder management, decision-making with uncertainty, and strategic leadership by focusing on the development of recommendations that decision-makers can use to make the most informed decision possible.

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