Defense Secretary Mark Esper has raised concerns within the Trump administration about federal agents patrolling the streets of U.S. cities in camouflage uniforms similar to those worn by troops in war zones, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson said on Tuesday.

According to Hoffman, Esper has said that “we want a system where people can tell the difference.”

“We saw this take place back in June when there were some law enforcement that wear uniforms that make them appear military in appearance,” Hoffman said.

Esper expressed concern that in some cases, federal law enforcement officers were being confused with troops because federal officers are wearing the same uniforms. This follows the nationwide protests, looting, and violence over the killing of George Floyd in June.

The defense secretary wants law enforcement officers and military personnel to have different uniforms in order to be distinguishable. And the wearing of MultiCam camouflage uniforms in an urban environment is of dubious usefulness anyway. 

Hoffman’s comments and Esper’s concerns come at a time when there were reports of numerous federal agents dressed like military troops descending into Portland, Oregon, this week on the orders of the president. President Trump threatened to send additional agents into other major cities, including New York and Philadelphia, if the “liberal Democrats” in charge do not gain control of their cities and stop the lawlessness. 

Portland especially has been a hotspot this week. The administration has sent the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection teams into Portland. This is very much against the wishes of Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Wheeler has said that small groups of violent activists were drowning out the message of peaceful protesters. He blamed federal officers for making the situation worse.