by Jim Emerson
In response to a Congressional request, the Department of Defense Inspector General “determined that ballistic testing and quality assurance for Interceptor Body Armor inserts did not have proper controls to ensure that the ballistic inserts met contract requirements. Consequently, the Army cannot be sure that the appropriate level of protection has been achieved.” According to this report, the Army cannot assure our troops that the issued body armor will protect them in combat. In times of austere budgets the military must ensure that all equipment meets specifications.
Testing, Incomplete and Inconsistent
The Army Program Manager did not ensure consistent testing of the armor vests delivered by seven different contractors. Two lots were not tested to confirm their compliance with standards. For a $2.5 billion contract over two years, this is gambling with the lives of soldiers. In addition, the armor was not tested in all environments, altitudes, and combat situations. A firefight in the mountains of Afghanistan is not the place to see if the armor works.
The Program Manger took shortcuts in testing armor inserts, and this is unacceptable and deadly.
The two lots that were untested were recalled in 2008 and tested before being returned to the troops. How much did that cost? Army Spokesman,George Wright, stated, “The body armor in use today is performing as it was intended. We are continuing to research our data and as of now have not found a single instance where a soldier has been wounded due to faulty body armor.” This should be backed up with consistent testing.
As a military retiree and an American, I have no confidence in this “test it in combat” process of supplying our war fighters. Losing just one warfighter because of defective equipment is one too many and it is totally unacceptable.
The IG report didn’t declare that the body armor was defective, but unless it is tested in simulated combat situations, the American people should not accept anyone’s word that the solders on the front lines have the best equipment available. Our taxes pay for this equipment, so it must perform as advertised. America’s warfighters deserve the best.
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This article originally appeared on CoachIsRight.com and is reprinted with permission.
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