Dragon Skin Passes Another, Non-DOD, Level III Test

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Dragon Skin Passes Another, Non-DOD, Level III Test In Direct Comparison With Armored Mobility Incorporated (AMI) Level III Plate Armor

By Roger Charles

Editor, DefenseWatch

CORRECTED VERSION — Editor’s Note: This Editor mistakenly implied that the armor plate described in the following article was a military issued ballistic plate used with the Interceptor Body Armor system. The AMI Level III plate tested is NOT a U.S. military issued item, but it is representative of the generic approach which employs rigid ballistic plates.

Well, patient readers of DefenseWatch now have some more credible, empirical data to consider as they weigh the question, are our troops being provided the best available body armor?

Following Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin having passed the recent NIJ tests in Wichita, Kansas (view article), we have this latest news, from an impartial and technically knowledgeable source, about Dragon Skin’s successfully passing another Level III test!!

This latest test was conducted by, and the results reported by, Dr. Gary K. Roberts, LCDR, USNR, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA.

Here’s the essential information from Dr. Roberts’ posting, and a link to one of the sites where his test report, including some very interesting graphics, is posted.

Read it, and please note that for the same level and area of ballistic protection, wearing the flexible Dragon Skin is three pounds less than the AMI equivalent. That’s 50% more weight with the rigid AMI plate carried by a troop to get only the equivalent protection!! (Not to mention the other inherent advantages in a flexible body armor.)

Pinnacle Dragon Skin SOV-2000 level III armor was tested this week for an LE agency, along with stand-alone Armored Mobility Incorporated level III plate armor used as a control and for comparison. Both types of armor were conditioned for 12 hours at 170 degrees F, then moved to ambient air for approximately 90 min prior to being shot. The problems associated with the use of inelastic clay backing material have been well documented; as such, the armor was secured to a life-size curvilinear torso replica made of Perma-Gel. Each armor system was shot a minimum of 20 times with five shots of each ammunition type fired against each armor system–one 90 degree perpendicular shot, two shots at 60 degrees obliquity, and two shots at 30 degrees obliquity, using each of the following loads fired at a distance of 10 feet:

— 5.56 mm 40 gr LeMas Urban Warfare (using a moly coated Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet) with a 3718 f/s average velocity.

— 5.56 mm M855 62 gr FMJ with a 3054 f/s average velocity.

— 7.62×39 mm M43 123 gr steel-core FMJ with a 2307 f/s average velocity.

— .30-06 M2 150 gr FMJ with a 2736 f/s average velocity.

All of the above ammo was successfully stopped by both armor systems in this testing, with no armor failures or penetrations, even after receiving multiple hits. [Emphasis in the original.]

Note that since both of these armor systems are level III, they are not rated to stop true AP rifle ammunition.

AMI level III plates are fabricated using an outer 3 mm MARS steel layer bonded to a compressed Dyneema backing, with a linex coating for spall reduction, resulting in a total plate thickness of approximately 1”. AMI level III 12” x 14.5” plates weigh about 10 lbs and 10” x 12” plates are about 9 lbs.

Pinnacle SOV-2000 level III armor is made of overlapping approximately 0.25” x 2” ceramic discs encased in a fabric cover. In evaluating the Dragon Skin system, it is important to note that while the external measurements of the Dragon Skin panel are 11.5” x 13.5”, the area of level III coverage provided by the encased ceramic discs is 10” x 12”; the fabric edges are NOT intended to provide ballistic protection. Weight of the Pinnacle SOV-2000 Dragon Skin armor providing 10 x 12 inches of level III protection was approximately 6 lbs.

Both armor systems clearly met and exceeded the NIJ level III requirements and offered true multi-hit protection from the class of rifle projectiles they are rated to stop. [Emphasis in the original.]

Editor’s Comment: I believe this is the first publicized, side-by-side comparison of Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin flexible body armor against the rigid plate protection approach, as used by the Interceptor Body Armor system. (The AMI plate is NOT a U.S. military issued item). And, please, note that this test, like the NIJ test, was conducted outside the DOD acquisition process. So, now, the ball is back in the court of the Army, Marine Corps and congressional proponents of the Interceptor system. Let’s see what the response is from James Zhang, Steve Pinter, and Karl Masters and their co-conspirators. These three are principal cogs of the corrupt, dysfunctional acquisition process that continue to tell the parents of America’s Grunts that our stout-hearted lads and lasses are being issued the “best-available” body armor, in the face of increasingly (and increasingly credible) evidence that such claims are just more E-ring spin. (Known in other, more traditional circles as bald-faced lies.) — Stay tuned. More revelations are should be soon forthcoming that will provide even more definitive data that young Americans are dying while wearing second-rate body armor, when better is available.

SFTT Co-Chair Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at sftteditor@aol.com. .

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Dragon Skin Passes Dept. Of Justice Ballistic Tests

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Panic is rampant today inside one sector of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (MICC) as word spreads that Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin flexible body armor passed the ballistic tests conducted Monday and Tuesday at United States Test Laboratory in Wichita, Kansas, on behalf of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Formal certification by NIJ of Dragon Skin for Level III protection is expected within the next few weeks.

Unlike the buggy-whip manufacturers who tried to ignore the foreseeable consequences the internal combustion engine would have on their products, the rigid ballistic-protective plate manufacturers fully comprehend the probable results of NIJ’s certification. They will no doubt redouble their efforts to keep Congress from asking the tough questions about Army and Marine Corps fraudulent misrepresentations on this issue of life-or-death importance: What is the best-available body armor that our troops should be wearing?

When queried by Defense Watch about Monday’s NIJ test, Murray Neal, President of Pinnacle Armor provided this statement: Continue Reading →

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Pinnacle Armor – DragonSkin Test #2

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As we’ve said before, DefenseWatch does not normally post Press Releases of private companies, but in the case of Pinnacle Armor we are doing so because of the seriousness of this life-or-death issue to America’s Grunts. The continued corruption in the Army acquisition system shows no sign of being corrected, so here’s “the other side of the story.” (And dear readers, please stay tuned — the story is just getting interesting!!) Continue Reading →

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Press Release by Pinnacle Armor

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[DefenseWatch does not normally post Press Releases of private companies, but in this case we are doing so because of the seriousness of this life-or-death issue. If any reader knows why the Army and the House Armed Services Committee are working in concert to prevent America’s Grunts from being issued the best-available body armor, please share your thoughts with DefenseWatch.]

Issued Released:

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations’ (AFOSI) February 2006 tests of the Dragon Skin(r) level III body armor at Aberdeen Test Center did not fail any written contract specifications with the Air Force. AFOSI, because it conducts counter-threat operations in hostile environments on a daily basis, has a requirement for a high level of ballistic performance, with a greater area of coverage in a lighter weight system, which also allows for better mobility to execute specific mission needs. Pinnacle is meeting that requirement. The decision to return the vests to Pinnacle following testing was a mutual decision to allow Pinnacle to address a manufacturing issue, but that issue did not affect the vests’ performance during testing. AFOSI remains highly committed to having this body armor contract completed as planned, and the vests tested to meet this requirement and returned to their agents and support personnel deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. AFOSI was given an opportunity to review the content of this press release and agreed with its content. Should you have any questions for AFOSI, their POC is Capt Regen Wilson, (240) 857-0989.

Sincerely,

Paul Chopra

CW4(P)(Ret)NSDQ!

Pinnacle Armor, Inc.

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Sorenson’s Mission — Kill Dragon Skin

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By Roger Charles

On Friday of last week, MajGen Jeffrey Sorenson of the US Army stood up at a press conference and attempted, one more time, to drive a stake through the heart of that pesky Dragon Skin body armor, but, unlike the brittle SAPI plates of the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), Dragon Skin has proven capable of stopping multiple hits.

Sorenson will, no doubt, be rewarded for his extraordinary display of E-ring valor — he tried, and gave it his all. I expect the citation for his end of tour award will include the following boilerplate:

“On March 31, 2006, under withering questioning which swept the podium from numerous entrenched journalists, MajGen Sorenson valiantly stood his ground and directed accurate, sustained counter-fire against the media’s positions. Recognizing that one side of the Army’s carefully constructed barricade of lies had been penetrated, MajGen Sorenson quickly marshaled his forces to seal off the penetration and personally led the counterattack which resulted in a complete rout of the attacking journalists.”* The Perfumed-Prince “W” distinguishing device for Weasel-wording is authorized for wear with this citation.

Sorensen’s pretext for the news conference was the Army’s public acknowledgement of a March 17 Safety Of Use Message (SOUM), Number 06-017,”Discontinue Use of Unauthorized Body Army, Dragon Skin.”

Defense Watch’s Editor, Nat Helms, had obtained a copy of this SOUM and posted it on March 23, along with a brief introduction, “US Army Officials Continue to Trap Themselves In a Web of Deceit“.

Sorenson’s press dance appeared at first glance to have this straightforward purpose — to explain to the DOD press corps that the Army had taken this action in the best interests of America’s Grunts.

But, he soon disclosed the ulterior motive for his briefing — to announce that, “there is another service [USAF] that has procured this type of capability [Dragon Skin SOV 2000 Flexible Body Armor System], but has recently recalled it because it did not meet standards.”

Ah, now, the fun part. This Army general flat-out misrepresented two key points. One, that Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin “did not meet standards,” i.e., had failed a ballistics test conducted at Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) during 16-17 February.

Second, the Air Force component for whom the test was conducted, Headquarters Office of Special Investigations (OSI), had “recalled” the Dragon Skin.

As in most of the clever web of lies spun by the PP’s in DOD press rooms, the lies were concealed under a veneer of weasel-worded statements that must literally be deconstructed word-by-word in order to get to the truth. And the rosetta stone needed to reveal the Army’s perfidy is the ATC’s test report to HQ, OSI, Andrews AFB. The subject of this letter is: “Ballistic Testing of Pinnacle Armor Dragon Skin,” and it specifies that SOV 2000 was tested, not the SOV 3000.

A matrix listed eight tests, seven with 7.62mm Level IV rounds, and one “durability” test wherein the vests were dropped and “run over by a pickup truck (two passes).” [Note:remember the Interceptor SAPI plates are stamped “Handle With Care,” and are shipped in boxes labeled, “Fragile – Do Not Drop.” Don’t expect Interceptor vests with the SAPI plates to undergo this kind of durability testing anytime soon.]

First, the Pinnacle Armor testing at ATC used all Level IV ammunition!! And Dragon Skin SOV 2000 is NOT advertised nor certified as Level IV ballistic protection. Here’s what the ATC test report said:

5. The SOV 2000 Flexible Body Armor System is advertised as a “Level III+” solution in which the “+” moniker denotes 0-m range protection from two “Level IV” threats (reference 1d)”: [NOTE: A table with two Level IV rounds, a 7.62mm and a 5.56mm, is presented. Only the “7.62 X 39-mm M1943 Ball Type PS” round was tested by ATC against the Dragon Skin SOV 2000.]

Given this, only Test No.3 from the matrix above could be considered applicable for confirmation of the ballistic performance of the system as was advertised in writing by the vendor.

6. Favorable results were observed on only two of the eight tests (Tests No.3 and 4)…” Now, folks, in everyday English, here’s what the above means: Dragon Skin SOV 2000, a Level III+ body armor, defeated “only” two of the seven Level IV rounds!!

So much for Sorenson’s patently false claim that Dragon Skin “did not meet standards. Dragon Skin not only met the standards, it exceeded them, and noticeably so!

Now, to Sorenson’s 2d phoney claim, that the other service “recalled it” (meaning Dragon Skin). Let’s stipulate that Sorenson is not stupid person, and that as an Army major general, serving as Deputy, Acquisition and Systems Management, for the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, he is learned in the correct terminology of his trade.

Ford, GM and Chrysler may “recall” things, but in DOD acquistion, a contract is either in effect or it is not. The Pinnacle Armor contract with AF OSI is, as of Monday, April 4, still an active contract.

Was Sorenson just too lazy to have one of his flunkeys pick up the phone and call the Air Force to find out what was the status of the Pinnacle Armor contract? Or, did an Army general knowingly misrepresent a significant fact on an item of life-or-death importance to America’s Grunts?

Let’s see what the ATC test report had to say about this issue.

7. While the samples successfully defeated the advertised “Level III+” threat, results of this test series did not meet the vendor’s [i.e., Pinnacle Armor’s] expectation for the system for the other tested threats based on physical inspections of the targets and past testing at commercial ranges. This has resulted in their initiation of a root-cause investigation…

In other words, Dragon Skin SOV 2000 passed the Air Force standards, but did not exceed the standards as much as Pinnacle Armor expected. Therefore, Pinnacle Armor initiated their own investigation, focusing on Quality Control issues related to the manufacturing of the ceramic disks provided to Pinnacle Armor by its supplier.

Rather than the Air Force “recalling it,” the Dragon Skin manufacturer voluntarily took the vests back to inspect the ceramic disks and work with the company that manufactured these disks to see why the Level III+ vests only stopped about half of the other Level IV rounds in Tests 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7. (Remember — Dragon Skin SOV 2000 passed Tests 3 and 4.)

For those of you willing to give Sorenson and the Army the benefit of some doubt, that maybe he was confused about the two Dragon Skin versions, SOV 2000 and SOV 3000, save your charity for someone who deserves it.

The US Army and MajGen Sorenson are well aware of the difference between SOV 2000 and SOV 3000. In a synopsis posted on Federal Business Opportunities, the Army had announced on March 13, that it was negotiating with Pinnacle Armor for 30 sets of “Dragon Skin SOV 3000 with Full Level IV Wrap Body Armor.”

Once again, a Perfumed Prince has paid lip service to the myth that the Army acquisition system is concerned about and dedicated to providing America’s Soldiers equipment that “is safe, it is suitable and it’s effective.”

The ugly reality, exposed one more time, is that the Army acquisition system is concerned only with process, not product — with keeping a bloated, an inefficient, and, yes, too-often a criminal bureaucracy, occupied with “busy work” that pays for luxurious suites along “K” Street and funds golf trips to Saint Andrews. All the while, the best of our nation’s youth are exposed to increasingly lethal attacks while wearing inferior body armor that makes a mockery of “Duty-Honor-Country.”

P.S. The media response to Sorenson’s bald-faced lies deserves special note. Gullible DOD press representatives bought into the mendacious attack on Dragon Skin, and did so with gusto. Typical was the headline by Lolita Baldor, the Associated Press reporter: “Armor banned by Army banned by Air Force.” Sorenson could not have been more pleased if one of the designated liars in Army PAO had written the headline.

SFTT President Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at sfttpres@aol.com. Please send comments to DWFeedback@yahoo.com.

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US Army Officials Continue to Trap Themselves In a Web of Deceit

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By Nathaniel R. Helms

The United States Army claims it has not mounted a campaign to make soldiers shed their clearly superior Dragon Skin body armor in favor of the Army’s inferior Interceptor OTV. Over the last seven months Army officials have alternately claimed and denied that they know all about the capabilities of Dragon Skin, including Army spokesman Paul Boyce telling the Washington Post it would like to get hold of Pinnacle Armor Co.’s Dragon Skin body armor to evaluate it.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, including PEO Soldier’s own ballistic tests conducted at two Army research laboratories that irrefutably proved Dragon Skin was a superior product, the officers charged with providing America’s warriors with the best protection possible continue to maintain that the Army’s home-grown Interceptor OTV body armor is superior. Apparently the Army officials charged with dealing credibly with the subject of body armor are simply unable to tell the truth.

The Fresno, CA-based company has been trying to get the Pentagon’s attention for more than five years. According to engineers familiar with Pinnacle’s efforts the Natick Soldier System’s Center in Massachusetts, PEO Soldier at Ft. Belvoir, VA, , and TSM Soldier at Ft. Benning, GA (TRADOC Systems Manager Soldier) were given the Pinnacle SOV-2000 “Dragon Skin” technology and allowed to select the rounds and shot placement to test it five years ago. The tests subsequently conducted showed Dragon Skin surpassed all other body armor technologies available at the time, Army tests revealed.

Witnessed statements were later made the same year to Pinnacle president Murray Neal – the inventor of Dragon Skin armor and its patent holder – by Natick Soldier Systems Center’s program scientist Dr. James Zheng, who reportedly said, “The SOV Dragon Skin system will never be fielded unless the technology and intellectual property are turned over to Natick Soldier Systems Center,” according to sources who spoke with DW upon assurances of anonymity. Neal never did give up his secrets and Pinnacle never received an Army or Marine Corps contract….

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Is the Procurement System Actually Working AGAINST the Troops?

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By Paul Connors

Recently, DefenseWatch Editor-in-Chief Nat Helms beat the mainstream press to the punch and broke a story regarding the complete breakdown in the DoD procurement system when he released the first in a series of articles concerning defective Interceptor body armor. In a multi-part series, Helms trumped the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and other major print and broadcast news outlets in his reportage of the irregularities in the awarding of government contracts, the quality issues with finished products and the lack of oversight (until very recently) of a program that had an immediate and direct bearing on the physical safety and survivability of U.S. Marines and Army soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The initial story and the follow-on series are the exact type of reportage that SFTT.org founder, the late Colonel David H. Hackworth, U.S. Army, (Ret.) wanted to be able to provide to those most in need of our oversight, namely the average American GI. As a member of the editorial staff of DefenseWatch, I am very proud of Nat Helms and his unflagging efforts to research this story and bring it forward into the light of day. At the same time, I am also proud that it was SFTT and DefenseWatch that broke this major story. Continue Reading →

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Pentagon Bean Counters Just Don’t Get It

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By Roger Charles

When the post-mortem on our current military venture in Iraq is finally written, and if an honest analysis is allowed, the failure of the United States to provide decent, best-available body armor to our fighters will be acknowledged as the worst equipment failure of all.

And, again assuming an honest report, the stupendous investigative work and writings of Defense Watch’s own editor, Nat Helms, will be highlighted as the benchmark on this topic. Without meaning to embarrass Nat (too much), I think it is fair to say that his series of articles published in DefenseWatch have ripped the scab off a festering sore that badly needs some strong exposure and treatment.

Nat has revealed yet one more sad example of a dysfunctional DoD acquisition system that cannot get body armor of acceptable quality to our grunts for a few thousands of dollars per unit cost, but one that can spend obscene amounts of taxpayers’ funds on aircraft that cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, or on warships that cost several billions of dollars each.

Brigades of Gucci-wearing, greasy-haired, K-street lobbyists in Washington protect the bloated budgets for what Hack called the “toys,” while the “boys” (and “girls,” too) have no such proponents to peddle influence on our Congress.

The end result is this same system with gold-plated, diamond-encrusted toys cannot give America’s Grunts that which most directly and yes, routinely, determines whether they live or die — the best-available body armor.

(Perhaps some interested DefenseWatch reader will take a good look at the disconnect between the DoD acquisition system that finds body armor at $4000 per set too expensive, while the DoD personnel system is now paying $400,000 in death insurance benefits to the beneficiaries of each KIA. Nat’s latest article show irrefutable evidence that a substantial number of these KIA’s would have survived had they had better body armor. Maybe the DoD bean counters will now re-compute their cost-benefit analysis to reflect the new death benefits. These soulless bureaucrats and their Perfumed Prince bosses have damn sure ignored the moral aspects of sending young Americans to the killing fields with inferior body armor. Sadly, the current rate of KIA’s is probably too low to force Pentagon budgeteers to re-calibrate their standing decision that favors cheaper, inferior body armor.)

The issue is a straight forward one. It is not like searching for the cure for cancer, or for a single cause of obesity, or for the origins of the universe.

What we have here is on one level “just” an engineering challenge, and the solution must combine only critical factors: (1) the best designs, based on scientific study and on input from those who wear it and fight in it; and (2) the best materials and workmanship that American industry can provide.

If either of these two critical factors is weak, incomplete, shoddy or otherwise flawed, America’s Grunts will continue to pay for the failures with their lives, their limbs and their blood, period.

Let’s be very clear about one point. We are not arguing for some sort of “cocoon,” as Marine General Peter Pace termed it last summer, which renders America’s Grunts impervious to the ordnance of today’s battlefield. Nor, are we arguing for some unrealistic suit of body armor that makes each soldier a mini-Abrams tank on two feet.

Our Grunts must be able to take the fight to the enemy, and they must be agile, mobile and lethal when doing so.

The battlefields where our enemies await our Grunts are deadly places, yet there are those who falsely claim that the goal is perfect protection for our troops. This is an insult to the bravery of our soldiers, and most especially of those who have paid the ultimate price in service to our great nation.

Nat Helm’s DefenseWatch articles have shown clearly and directly, that the current body armor most often issued to our general purpose forces, the Interceptor Armor, is poorly designed. He has also presented indisputable evidence that our government has found both the materials and workmanship, in thousands of sets of the body armor, to be sub-standard. (The recalls of thousands of sets speak volumes.

So, what is the solution?

If there was ever a case for the U.S. Congress to assert its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch’s bungling of a sacred duty, it is this one. The Armed Services Committees of both the House and Senate should conduct extensive investigations into this entire matter. They should determine just how our nation spent hundreds of millions of dollars on body armor that was in far too many cases, sub-standard in both design and material.

A good place to start would be the role of the Army’s Natick Lab (as us old-timers knew it) and Aberdeen Proving Ground in their dual achievements — (1) approving inferior designs and material specifications for body armor to be procured from American contractors, and (2) rigging the test and evaluation process so as to preclude a “fair hearing” for other designs and materials that show demonstrated superiority to the current Interceptor armor.

Will the Congress rise to this challenge? I am not optimistic. Only an outraged public can force their elected representatives to do their duty, and I see little sign that enough Americans, care enough, to change the status quo.

Perhaps I should explain both my pessimism and why this is a “hot-button” issue for me (as it was for Hack). Nearly 38 years ago a Marine in my infantry platoon was shot in the front torso while just a few feet from me. He literally fell almost into my arms. When I turned him over to check for signs of his wound, I first noted the frothy blood dribbling from his mouth. I’d paid attention in my first aid class at Quantico and realized I had a Marine with a sucking-chest wound. My platoon corpsmen were otherwise engaged with other casualties and I was the only person in position to render immediate aid.

Knowing that I needed to get the entry wound sealed, I preceded to un-snap the metal buttons the Marine’s flack jacket. The enemy round had gone right through the zipper, mangling the teeth on the zipper, and making the zipper useless. Yet, I had to get the flack jacket open enough to get the wound sealed. What do you do now, Lieutenant?

Thanks to my K-bar, I was able to cut the cloth part of the zipper from top to bottom, opening access to the Marine’s chest sufficiently so that I could put the plastic wrapped bandage onto the wound, and wrap a strap around the Marine’s chest to keep the bandage in place. His breathing became more normal and the bloody froth from his mouth subsided. (The Marine survived.)

I recall this incident in this detail because it highlighted to me the stupidity of the engineers in the Army acquisition system who designed a zippered front to the flack jacket. (The snap buttons worked just fine. Why have both?)

Their failure to understand what an AK-47 round would do to the zipper, and the problems it would make for someone like myself who was trying to treat a wound earned them a stream of my strongest curses as I was forced to use my K-bar, and precious seconds, to open the Marine’s flack jacket. It was only after the Marine was evacuated that I had time to ponder the engineer’s greater stupidity — placing a large seam right up the center of the torso of the “protected” individual. (I issued orders later that day to my platoon that we would no longer use the zippers in our flack jackets.)

Today, 38 years later, thanks to Nat’s great reporting, we learn that “seams” in body armor are still, too often, the location of the fatal wounds!!

The entire disastrous story of inferior body armor is due to the simple fact that when it comes to America’s Grunts, no one in position of authority cares. Forget the media events and the crocodile tears at Arlington National Cemetery or the amputee wards at Bethesda and Walter Reed.

If any reader is a resident of the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, you might want to read the following quote from your representative’s web page:

“Congressman Murtha is so well-respected for his first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues that he has been a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties on military and defense issues and is one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in the country. He is ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, a Vietnam combat veteran and a retired Marine Corps colonel with 37 years of service, a rare combination of experience that enables him to understand defense and military operations from every perspective.” (Emphasis added.)

And, If you get the chance, ask Jack Murtha to explain why his beloved Marines are dying today due to inferior body armor after he has spent nearly 32 years as a powerful congressman with real authority over the very defense budgets responsible for fielding the best-available protection for our Grunts?

SFTT Co Chair Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at Sftteditor@aol.com

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Interceptor OTV Body Armor Cost Lives, An Internal USMC Reports Shows

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The Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest was designed for use with SAPI plates and replaces the Personnel Armor System, Ground Troop Flak vest, more commonly known as the flak vest.

The “Marine Lethal Torso Injuries: Preliminary Findings 8/29/2005” was reportedly made to identify current weaknesses in the product, which was designed and fielded in the nearly billion-dollar joint US Army-USMC Interceptor program that created the controversial body armor.

Critics of the Interceptor body armor system complain it is bulky, poorly made, limits mobility, and incorporates a design that leaves the wearer vulnerable to gunshot and shrapnel wounds over large areas of the upper torso to limit production costs.

Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) spokesman Sanford “Mack” McLaurin, although aware of the report, declined to comment on it, declaring “this information could be help to our enemies and put Marines and Soldiers in danger.” MARCORSYSCOM is the agency within the Marine Corps responsible for providing Marine Corps approved equipment to its war fighters.

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Curry Keir, Army Public Affairs, Media Operations, was equally reticent in his Dec. 30 response to a recent DefenseWatch inquiry.

“We take operational security very seriously and will not discuss in public issues that may render any insight to the enemy on our capabilities; fielding plans; or tactics, techniques and procedures,” Keir said.

A skeptic might say the services’ sudden interest in security is more akin to closing the hen house door after the fox has entered than keeping sensitive information from the enemy. A DefenseWatch investigation begun last summer (See Is America’s Best Getting America’s Best series in DW archives) determined that the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick (SSC-Natick, Massachusetts), has known for at least several years that its in-house designed Interceptor body armor was not nearly as effective as other civilian body armor products already in production. The troops who wear the standard issue body armor are also well aware of its deficiencies. For more than two years DefenseWatch has received reports and complaints from Grunts in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Interceptor gear is lousy.

In late October DW began receiving reports for war fighters in Iraq that the American Armed Forces Network (AFN) was warning its radio listeners there that the Coalition had received intelligence about insurgents snipers that were being trained to aim at areas of vulnerability between Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI plates) – hard composite armor plate – where Coalition war fighters wearing Interceptor armor are particularly vulnerable. War correspondent and popular blogger Michael Yon confirmed the reports in an email to DefenseWatch after hearing them broadcast in Mosul.

Many war fighters told DefenseWatch they used their own money to buy superior body armor systems available on the open market despite DOD claims that the Interceptor body armor is the best money can buy. Those warriors reported the Interceptor body armor is frequently ill-fitting, falls apart with rugged use, decreases in protective capability with age, and leaves the wearer vulnerable to side and shoulder wounds that could prove fatal. The findings of the August 29 report supports every contention the agitated war fighters made. So did evidence introduced in several civilian court cases brought against all three of the Interceptor body armor manufacturers in unrelated lawsuits by disgruntled employees, civilian police agencies and the US Justice Department.

The DOD and the U.S. Army have both declined to comment to numerous DefenseWatch inquiries made since September seeking to discover whether senior Pentagon officials knew that Interceptor OTV body armor was ineffective, and what the Pentagon intended to do about the Interceptor problems if it did. US Army Public Affairs Chief Brigadier General Vincent Brooks went so far as to accuse DefenseWatch of “clearly having an agenda” and “not [being] interested in productive discussions on this topic.”

On November 17, 2005 Army spokesman John P. Boyce, Jr., following up on Brooks’ acid comments, declined to answer a DW inquiry seeking to know whether the Interceptor program was going to be cancelled after the current contracts have been completed. Two months ago DW received several still unconfirmed reports from credible sources within the body armor industry that the ill-conceived Interceptor program was under severe scrutiny by the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Army because of the numerous complaints its members have forwarded up the chain of command. Those sources continue to insist the Interceptor program will be terminated at the end of the current production run.

Instead of answering the question Boyce wrote on behalf of the US Army that:

“… the U.S. Army fielded more than 873,270 Outer Tactical Vests, so you may definitely say we are still using Outer Tactical Vests as well as personal body-armor technologies to protect our Soldiers. Soldier protection is the highest priority for the Army. As new technologies emerge, the Army aggressively works with industry to develop, test, produce and rapidly field the best possible equipment, and get it into the hands of our Soldiers.”

Meanwhile the Marine Corps was very quietly seeking answers to the problems with Interceptor armor that Marines encountered while wearing it in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. On November 22, 2005 MARCORSYSCOM issued a “Solicitation” for interested manufacturers to bid for the opportunity to manufacture an improved design of the Interceptor OTV body armor currently issued to most service members serving in the Global War on Terror. The request was placed in the Federal Business Opportunities website without any public announcement.

The bid says the Marines are “seeking market research, potential sources, and best practice information towards designing, developing, and buying a replacement item to provide torso ballistic protection with integrated and scalable load-carrying capabilities for individual Marines.

“The OTV, along with ballistic protective inserts, is commonly known as the USMC’s very successful “Interceptor” system,” the bid request explained. “The currently used Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) portion was developed in the late 1990’s. It consists of soft armor (i.e., fragmentation protection) covering the torso, groin and neck and can carry ceramic plates to protect against rifle fire. The OTV, however, is not designed – but is being used for – carrying equipment and items during USMC missions. Consequently, the OTV lacks efficient state-of-the-art load carrying capabilities and technologies that limit the user’s effectiveness.”

In his written response McLaurin gave a biographical account of the development of the Interceptor system, adding that “since the OTV was not designed to carry the excessive weight of a Marine’s combat load, we developed and procured a limited number of Assault Load Carriers (ALC)…”

“This modular system will allow Marines to adapt the OTV to the threat they face. However, Marines in combat wanted to attach their MOLLE pouches (ammunition and equipment carriers) directly to the OTV instead of using the ALC,” McLaurin continued. “We also developed and procured the Fighting Load Carrier (FLC), designed to carry ammunition magazines, the first aid kit, canteens and other combat equipment.”

Almost as an afterthought McLaurin concluded, “Consequently, since Marines in combat have identified the need for additional area of coverage, we developed and fielded the Side Small Arms Protective Inserts (S-SAPI) to protect deployed Marines.”

The Marine’s development of the Side Small Arms Protective Inserts (S-SAPI) modification corrects one of the most glaring problems inherent to the Interceptor system, several experts said. Natick’s failure to recognize early on the need for axillary protection led to the unnecessary deaths of the”nearly 23%” of the Marines” who “might have benefited from protection along the mid-axillary line of the lateral chest, ” according to the August 29 report. In laymen’s terms, the mid-axillary line of the lateral chest identifies the sides of the body’s upper torso.

McLaurin added that the November 22 solicitation for bids “is a result of Spiral Development on the OTV” and not a complete replacement program for the Interceptor system.

The summary of the solicitation request confirms his assessment:

“The OTV needs to be redesigned to carry a Marine’s assault load (i.e. magazines, water, grenades, etc.). It is to use state of the art load carriage techniques to optimally distribute the load over the torso. The contemplated integrated OTV will combine the capabilities to carry the ballistic protection and combat load. The system will use the current Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates.

Several representatives of body armor manufacturers recently told DefenseWatch they have heard reports that US Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker has given a green light to Army planners to begin looking for a suitable replacement for the Interceptor body armor system.

Patriot Materials Company President Mike Henderson, a former Special operations soldier, said his Sanford, North Carolina-based company is actively seeking a shot at promoting its body armor products to the Pentagon at this time. Patriot already has contracts to up armor all the Army’s medium and heavy-duty trucks used in Iraq at its Kuwait support facility and also sells personal body armor to special operations operators, he said.

Mark Carey, Patriot’s director of overseas operations, and a retired Spec Ops master sergeant, agreed that the word is already out across the industry that the Interceptor program will be scrapped as soon as the current contracts are filled. His assessment was seconded by Pinnacle Armor’s Paul Chopra, a retired US Army Special Operations aviator, and two other manufacturers who declined to go on record. Pinnacle make Dragon Skin body armor, which DefenseWatch examined closely in its America’s Best series.

Both manufacturers who spoke on the record said they would actively seek the new business when it becomes available and that their companies already produced body armor vastly superior to the Interceptor OTV system.

Since last May the Army and Marine Corps have recalled more than 23,000 body armor vests because they failed ballistic requirements when they were manufactured in 1999 and 2000. Many of those vests may now be in the war zone. About 5,000 were recalled in May, 2005 and 18,000 last November 16, according to Pentagon officials. All of the vests involved were produced by the same manufacturer, Point Blank Body Armor Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., under contract to the Marine Corps and the Army. The Marines Corps has repeatedly assured its war fighters the recalls did not involve safety issues and were merely manufacturing flaws that affected size and quality control – not bullet and shrapnel stopping capabilities.

In January, 2005 Point Blank’s CEO, a Long Island, New York businessman, gained a bit of notoriety for giving his 12-year-old daughter a $10 million party at a swank New York eatery. Brooks is the CEO of DHB Industries, the parent company of Point Blank, which makes the vests that were recalled in 2005. In 2004 Brooks exercised DHB stock options worth almost $70 million and at year’s end (Dec. 29, 2004), sold 5 million of his 11 million shares of common stock for a whopping $106.4 million, according to public records. Soon after the value of DHB stock began to decline.

As early as July 19, 2004, according to memos originally obtained by the Army Times newspaper, the Marine Corps found “major quality assurance deficiencies within Point Blank.” One month later, on August 24, 2004, the military rejected two orders from Point Blank after tests revealed that the vests did not meet safety requirements.

Faced with a severe shortage of body armor the Army decided that nine Point Blank orders that did not meet safety requirements would be sent to troops overseas anyway, according to court records obtained by DW from an unrelated Point Blank labor dispute heard in a Florida court. On May 3, 2005 Point Blank hired retired four-star Army Gen. Larry Ellis to lead the beleaguered company. On May 4, 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor. On July 20 Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million contract from the U.S. government. In November another18, 000 vests were recalled.

Another Interceptor body armor manufacturer, formerly known as Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for fraud for knowingly selling body armor that can’t stop bullets from killing its wearers. Second Chance was the leading body armor supplier to the American Armed Forces three years ago. It has since declared bankruptcy in Michigan and gone out of business.

Standing in the wings to pick up the slack was Armor Holdings, Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla, the current leading manufacturer and distributor of body armor for the U.S. military, On August 2, 2005 Armor Holdings announced that it had completed acquiring all of the domestic assets of Second Chance after the company declared bankruptcy following charges of fraud in its domestic operations. The announcement followed on the heels of a July 13 press release from Armor Holdings trumpeting that it had become the “exclusive provider” to replace up to 156,000 defective vests manufactured by Second Chance Body Armor and issued to American war fighters while it led the pack of armor manufacturers milking the cash cow conceived and fattened in the wake of the sudden need for body armor to fight the Global War on Terror.

Scott O’Brien, President of the Armor Holdings Products Division, commented in a September 2 press release that, “We are delighted to welcome Second Chance to the Armor Holdings team, and we believe this transaction creates a fresh start for Second Chance.”

Armor Holdings paid $45 million in cash for the assets of Second Chance, “including substantially all intellectual property, free and clear of all liens, claims and encumbrances, and assumed certain trade liabilities,” according to the Sept. 2 press release. An attorney close to the Second Chance debacle said Armor Holdings acquisition of the former body armor manufacturer’s assets left the American taxpayer – as usual -holding the bag for the cost of the failed equipment.

Despite the multitude of problems the Interceptor program has encountered the US Army apparently still stands by its product.

“The Army has made several improvements in the area of Soldier Protection equipment to the Outer Tactical Vests and to the Small Arms Protective Inserts.” Keir explained in his Dec. 30th email to DefenseWatch that promised a more complete explanation was still forthcoming. “In response to the changing battlefield conditions and as new technologies emerge; the Army will continue to develop improvements to Soldier Protection equipment that enhances survivability and mobility. Soldier protection is the highest priority for the U.S. Army,”

Keir’s comments prove what Miguel de Cervantes claimed in Don Quixote in the 17th Century is still relevant today: “The proof of the pudding is the eating.”

Bon Appetit!

DefenseWatch Editor Nathaniel R. “Nat” Helms is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, long-time journalist and war correspondent living in Missouri.

2

Point Blank Body Armor and Dragon Skin…Conclusion

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By Nathaniel R. Helms

US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler received two Medals of Honor for incredible bravery and the title of world-class hypocrite because he dared call war and the trapping of war “a racket.”

 

In the case at hand the product is body armor and the stakes are millions of dollars in Defense Department contracts. To get at it three huge players and a pack of yapping wannabes resorted to slick public relations efforts, retired generals masquerading as pitchmen, and retired DOD civilian procurement experts double dipping from the public trough. Among them they have managed to field good body armor when much better body armor is available, barely provide an adequate number of so-called “up-armored” soft-skinned HUMVEES for use as armored personnel carriers, and a host of scandals, improprieties, and deceitful behavior that is the accepted standard in the armaments industry.

Many of the former Perfumed Princes responsible for the so-far miserable performance by the industry will unabashedly say they “deserve” the opportunities the military-industrial complex has afforded them because they “dedicated their lives” to public service.

Others will tell you they are honest workers merely laboring within the sordid confines of the system that already exists. One retired Army officer who admittedly doesn’t have a problem making six-figures pumping inferior body armor as a consultant said he has had to “train his gag reflex so he won’t puke” when he talks about his job.

Another of the many veterans of the procurement wars who talked to DefenseWatch on assurances of anonymity shrugged off the grubby realities and disappointments of selling body armor as part of the program – much like death in war, he said. The formula for success in the body armor game, he explained, is short enough to recite in one breath. Successful players stay in the background, throw the retiring brass a gold-plated bone to gnaw on, keep a few lobbyists around to put their names in the ring, and make big campaign contributions to the influence peddlers. Payback comes from selling the Pentagon a product relatively easy to produce that earns a high rate of return and is good enough to cheaply get the job done. The Interceptor OTV body armor developed by the US Army is a text book example, he claimed.

Ceramic Stopper: Section of SOV-1000/Dragon Skin disc/panel with M80 ball round stuck in it. M80 ball is a Level IV ballistic threat, and Pinnacle's SOV-1000 Level III "+" system has stopped it. Backface Deformation Signature is only 9mm (just over 5/16").

Pinnacle Armor’s Murray Neal, whose small Fresno, Cal. company makes “Dragon Skin” body armor, was the only manufacturer to go on record. He does not understand why Pinnacle’s patented body armor, which costs at least four times as much as the Interceptor OTV body armor being issued today, is not being provided instead. Dragon Skin, which was reported on extensively by DefenseWatch in previous articles (See Part I and Part II) , is considered by many experts to be 30 to 40 years ahead in capability to Interceptor OTV body armor.

Neal said his 30-person operation can’t run with the big dogs because he can’t afford the price of playing in the big leagues.

That doesn’t mean Neal and Pinnacle Armor isn’t trying to get in the game where there are millions and millions of dollars to be made. Pinnacle is already selling vehicle and aircraft armor components to the Army and US Air Force, and its products are being scrutinized at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland for future development. Another expert who works in the Pentagon approving contracts said Neal relentlessly pursues every opportunity to make some headway selling his products to DOD. Pinnacle officials are actively courting their legislative representatives from California and have provided tours, talks, and a variety of other entreaties to generals, Senators, Representatives and DOD officials to obtain attention for Dragon Skin, he claimed.

 

Recently Pinnacle sold its Dragon Skin boy armor to nine American generals currently serving in Afghanistan so they can “evaluate” it, said Paul Chopra, a spokesperson for Pinnacle. It is also worn by members of the US Secret Service Presidential Protection detail, private contractors serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as many soldiers and journalists as can afford it. Last week war correspondent Michael Yon, who prefers Dragon Skin to the Interceptor gear he is wearing now, declined to buy it when he learned of its “almost $7,000 price tag” delivered to him in Iraq. The price put it out of his reach, he said.

There is an old axiom in business that says, “It takes money to make money.” Nothing new there, said one of Neal’s colleagues and a very successful competitor of Pinnacle during a telephone interview. That businessman is a distinguished former military officer, inventor, and international industrialist with a sense of humor sharpened in half-a-century of conversing in Pentagon double-speak. He chuckled slightly at Neal’s well-founded complaints.

“Composite armor technology has been around since 1968. Kevlar and other materials followed fairly close beyond that. When I got into the body armor business again recently there was old boy resistance to the fielding of our units, but the comparative tests were so revealing that for the first time in 50 years we haven’t been sandbagged by some old boy network,” that contented expert said.

Being without Dragon Skin doesn’t mean American warriors are going into battle completely unprotected. Compared to what soldiers went to war wearing thirty years ago Interceptor body armor is nothing short of miraculous. When worn in conjunction with SAPI plates, Kevlar helmets, and the new “QuadGuard” armor that hopefully will be fielded soon by the Marine Corps for protecting extremities, American-made body armor offers protection many threat levels ahead of what it replaced. It is so good Interceptor body armor is a primary reason why many warriors who have lost arms, eyes, and legs did not lose their lives despite suffering massive trauma. As long as the vital organs are protected the human body can take tremendous punishment, the experts agreed.

There are two separate yet insidiously linked circumstances that keep “the best” body armor away from the warriors who would be better prepared to survive combat if they had it. One reason is purely political and the other is technical, but both are impacted by the processes and procedures embedded in Pentagon thinking that keeps America’s best from receiving America’s best body armor.

The scientific reason is relatively straight forward obstacle waiting to be overcome by scientific endeavor. Body armor experts within the scientific and engineering communities say that blunt trauma injuries, also known as impact injuries, are caused by bullets and shrapnel moving at high speed that slams into a war fighter’s armor covered body and dents it exactly like a car fender after a wreck. In the parlance of body armor engineers it is the phenomena of “terminal energy.” Although Interceptor body armor prevents some terminal energy injures it doesn’t prevent them all, a circumstance that could be changed by using other products already on the market, all of the experts said.

“People were talking about strength of material and terminal energy and strengths of terminal effects, but if they don’t have a structure behind them. When an impact makes a dent in the skin of 44mm or deeper than that, and breaks bones and smashes organs, it is because all that light weight stuff isn’t good enough,” one expert explained. Interceptor armor prevents some of it and Pinnacle’s “Dragon Skin” does a far better job, but there is still “plenty of room to grow,” he said.

Equally vexing and equally insurmountable is the Pentagon’s procurement process. It is no secret to anyone who cares to know that the arms procurement process allowed by the Pentagon is a revolving door to lucrative employment for generals, politicians, and lobbyists wallowing in the cornucopia of buying national security. They know how the game is played and they know better than to rock the boat. Those who don’t need not apply, the experts agreed.

For example, on September 8, 2005 retired U. S. Air Force General John W. Handy, the former commander of the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), joined Horizon Lines, America’s largest domestic ocean carrier. It just so happens that Horizon enjoys a very close working relationship with the Department of Defense moving military equipment around the world and USTRASCOM is the single transportation manager for air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense.

According to a September 8 Business Wire press release Handy said,

“In carrying out my military responsibilities I have been quite impressed with the customer focus and delivery reliability at Horizon Lines. Chuck Raymond and his team have taken the company to new service levels and I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute to Horizon’s growth.”

Another senior military officer who took advantage of the revolving door is Mr. Fred Moosally, President of Lockheed Martin – Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems and the chief mover and shaker of the $18 billion US Coast Guard “Deep Water” modernization program. He used to be Captain Fred Moosally, an Annapolis football star and former Captain of the ill-fated battleship USS Iowa. Moosally was the center of a storm that brewed up 19 April, 1989 when he declined to accept the help of a professional US Navy accident investigator and ordered some 250 sailors aboard the Iowa to quickly clean up the accident scene after a 16″ gun in Turret #2 blew up. On his orders the sailors scrubbed the scarred turret, heaving immense steel plates and bulky pieces of equipment overboard and scrubbing off splatters of gore and painting the structure inside and out before an investigation of the accident could be conducted.

Another recent example of the revolving door syndrome involves Point Blank Body Armor, Inc. and retired four-star Army Gen. Larry Ellis On May 3, 2005 Point Blank hired Ellis to lead the company. Before retiring Ellis was the commander of US Forces Command (FORSCOM). FORSCOM is the Army’s largest major command. The day after Ellis took over the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 defective Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank that set off a scandal that still hasn’t settled in some quarters. On July 20, despite the company’s failure, Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million body armor contract from the U.S. government.

Proponents of the system say that industry is simply taking advantage of the experience offered by the retiring military officers. Critics claim such examples are part of the self-perpetuating system of procurement abuses that passes for honest industry in the Pentagon.

It is certainly no secret that the arms industry representatives (who often used to be generals and colonels themselves) begin eyeing prospective candidates for hire two or three years before the pampered Perfumed Princes in the Pentagon are due to retire.

Everyone already knows each other quite well from countless meetings, briefings, luncheons, dinners, and corporate soirees where the officers and their ladies are swirled and twirled down the yellow brick road leading to six and seven-figure corporate jobs after their retirement. It is really just a matter of deciding who will be a “team” player, one retired officer who failed the test explained.

This reporter spent a time in the early Seventies as a major general’s “enlisted aide,” a position that allowed me to almost invisibly watch the machinations of a host of general officers and corporate powerbrokers while they danced around the questions and issues of propriety, ethics, and special interests during development sessions for the Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) program. Between the quiet beeps that told me to change the briefing slides I used to spend fascinating days listening to the subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions, loaded comments, double-entendres and outright suggestions of impropriety exchanged between senior Army officers and corporate executives while they dickered and bickered over spending billions of tax payer dollars developing what eventually became the UH-60 “Blackhawk” transport helicopter. Whatever practices they cooked up that the lawyers suggested “might be considered questionable” were immediately classified.

“What is said here stays here,” was the mantra of the day.

And from what DefenseWatch was recently told, nothing has changed except the technology. As our inquiry has already shown, there are plenty of investigations, inquiries, probes, and hearings about allegations of impropriety, fraud, theft, cheating, lying and stealing currently underway in Congress, the courts, and the bowels of the Pentagon.

It is already old news that the US Air Force has lost the ability to spend its own money because of scandalous behavior by Boeing Corporation officials and members of the Secretary of the Air Force’s staff over buying new refueling tankers. Currently in the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) the U.S Army Inspector General, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Army, and the FBI are probing allegations of corruption by senior military officer within that command. Meanwhile the body armor industry is holding its breath while the Justice Department investigates allegedly fraudulent behavior in its ranks. Within the past two years all three of the major body armor manufacturers have been sued for making faulty body armor and one company – Second Chance Corporation – that was making millions in government contracts making body armor for American warriors two years ago – has been driven out of business for fraud.

Apparently Butler was right. War is just a racket for some folks. Too bad it is America’s best that pays the freight.

DefenseWatch Editor Nathaniel R. “Nat” Helms is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, long-time journalist and war correspondent living in Missouri. He is the author of two books, Numba One – Numba Ten and Journey Into Madness: A Hitchhiker’s Account of the Bosnian Civil War, both available at www.ebooks-online.com. He can be reached at natshouse1@charter.net. Send Feedback responses to­ dwfeedback@yahoo.com

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