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Driving Around…In Style

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You thought Army uniforms were green? In Friday’s contract solicitations, the Army proves that’s not always the case. Its chauffeur uniforms, for example, must come in grey.

Chauffeur uniforms?

You bet. Despite the fact, as the U.S. military never tires of telling us, that it has been cut to the bone, certain budget items are apparently sacrosanct. There is, after all, still a requirement to chauffeur the Pentagon brass, both military and civilian, hither and yon around the capital in Humvee-sized SUVs (the $15 billion you spent on the Washington Metro system – no way. Taxicabs? Puh-leez.)

Word mavens may take issue of the use of the word “chauffeur” here. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person employed to drive a private automobile or limousine for the owner,” but these aren’t private autos, nor are they owned by the passenger any more than they are owned by you and me. Plus, it’s French.

The Army wants to buy 203 men’s coats and 16 women’s coats. That suggests that only 8% of the Army’s chauffeurs are women, about half the female share of the uniformed force. It’s also seeking 340 pairs of men’s trousers…and 16 for women. Then there are the 408 men’s shirts, in both blue and white, but only 24 for female chauffeurs.

Gender aside, just who benefits from these fancy duds (beyond the nattily-attired guys or gals wearing them)?

The Motor Operations Division’s Chauffeur’s provides transportation support for the Senior Executive Staffs of the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Under Secretaries of Army and Air Force, Vice Chiefs of Staff Army and Air Force, Assistant Secretaries, and other Principal Officials of Headquarters Department of Defense (DoD).

Apparently the Navy has its own, ahem, fleet of cars.

But note carefully: it’s not those top officials who are getting such properly-clad chauffeurs. It’s their “Senior Executive Staffs.”

The particulars:

Grey chauffeur uniforms shall be made of 55% polyester, 45% wool material. Men, blouse coat, grey, shall be made with a black rayon liner and two inside breast pocket, two outside flap pockets. Men, Trouser, grey, two back pockets, two front pocket with front zipper with clasp, front pleats and cuffs hem. Women, blouse coat, grey shall be made with a black rayon liner and two inside breast pocket, two outside flap pockets. Women, trouser, grey two back pockets, front zipper with clasp, two front pocket with front pleats and cuffs hem. Shirts, Elbeco Corporate Apparel, white and light blue, long and short sleeves shall be made of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. Sweater, black V-Neck, poly wool blend.  Neckties, cotton, burgundy.

Elbeco, by the way, is a uniform maker headquartered in Reading, Penn. “Elbeco continues to produce over 20% of its products in the United States, and is the largest employer of union sewers in the industry,” it notes on its website.

Meanwhile, back to the Army solicitation: “The contractor shall provide personnel for measuring chauffeurs and schedule date in advance,” it concludes. “All measuring will take place at the Motor Operations Division located at 501 S. 15th Street, ARL., VA 22202” That’s less than a mile from the Pentagon.

You might call this a rush order: half of it must be delivered by Oct. 22, with the rest delivered by Nov. 16. Lots of holiday parties coming up around town, you know.

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