In 2020, then-Commandant Gen. David Berger gave Marine Corps Systems Command a task: revamp Marines’ green-on-green physical training uniform.
Systems Command tried again, unveiling in October 2022 a new prototype that retained the reflective elements and moisture-wicking technology of the first prototype but shortened the shorts, lightened the fabric and adjusted the fit by gender.
Less than a year later, the Marine Corps quietly scrapped the whole plan.
“Marine Corps Systems Command has ceased work to procure and field the new PT uniform to redirect resources to more urgent defense needs,” Morgan Blackstock, a spokeswoman for the command, said via email Tuesday in response to a Marine Corps Times inquiry on the status of the uniform.
In response to a Marine Corps Times question about what the other “urgent defense needs” were, Blackstock wrote on Monday, “The Marine Corps is prioritizing programs that better focus on taking care of Marines and USMC modernization,” but did not elaborate further.
The Marine Corps is engaged in two expensive initiatives, Force Design 2030 and Talent Management 2030, geared toward modernizing war-fighting and making Marines want to stay in the service, respectively.
No funds had yet been allocated for the uniform in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, Blackstock said. The Corps rescinded the approval to develop a replacement uniform in September, according to the spokeswoman.
The current — and seemingly permanent — physical training uniform consists of a simple olive-green T-shirt and thigh-length shorts.
In cold weather, Marines can throw on warmer layers in the same olive-green shade.
Silkies, the extremely short physical training shorts that used to be de rigueur for Marines, haven’t been part of standard-issue physical training gear since 2011.
The prototypes of the uniform that would have replaced the current uniform were visually busier, adorned with the Marine Corps insignia, “USMC” and striping in reflective white material. The reflective elements were meant to replace the glow belts Marines often wear while exercising in dark conditions or near roads, according to a November 2021 Systems Command slideshow.
Hundreds of Marines tested both the initial and the revised prototypes, according to Marine Corps news releases.
In April 2021, the Marine Corps awarded a contract worth a maximum of more than $146 million to four uniform manufacturers, which would have made a maximum total of 1.8 million of the new uniforms by April 2026. The Systems Command slideshow estimated it would cost $7.5 million to get the uniforms just for recruit depots and Officer Candidates School, the first locations that had been scheduled to receive the new garb.
The Marine Corps is grappling with shortages of several uniform items, including the camouflage combat utility uniform. That uniform, designed for everyday wear, won’t fully be back in stock until July 2024, Marine spokesman Maj. John Parry previously told Marine Corps Times.
In the meantime, unit leaders can allow Marines to wear certain nonstandard uniform items, including the desert-colored combat utility uniform, Commandant Gen. Eric Smith announced in September. But even the desert-colored uniform is out of stock online.
The physical training uniform appears to be in stock, though.
One online reviewer expressed tongue-in-cheek fondness for the shorts, writing on the Navy Exchange website, “Sometimes, I wear my shorts while dancing in the rain, or while prancing through piles of autumn leaves, giggling all the way. I just can’t seem to tear myself away from my shorts.”
Neither, apparently, can the Marine Corps.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.