Flawed Army Test Procedures for Body Armor

Posted by:

I had previously reported that the GAO had found that the Army’s practice of incorrectly rounding down back-face deformations (“BFD”) would have caused two body armor designs that passed First Article Testing to “have failed if the measurements had not been rounded.”   This is just one of many testing anomalies  chronicled in the 110 page GAO report entitled:  Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding.

Not satisfied with the advantage granted contractors by rounding down BFD, the Army and DOT&E team found another blatantly suspect maneuver that placed Soldiers at higher risk while decreasing the risks and costs to contractors.   This  scheme involved the question of where to measure Back-Face Deformation (“BFD”)?  Seems like it’s a non-issue:  Take the measurement at the deepest point of the depression in the clay backing. 

GAO thought so, and said:   “According to original testing protocols, back-face deformation, was to be measured at the deepest point of the depression in the clay backing . . .  According to Army officials, the deeper the back-face deformation measured in the clay backing, the higher the risk of internal injury or death.”  

Not so fast.  The Army and DOT&E team decided that what counted, and what should determine where the measurement of BFD was taken, was the point of aim for the test shot.  They bandied about some convoluted trigonometric gobbledygook involving “plate curvature variances,” degrees of obliquity, and “the reference plane across the diameter of the indentation.” (There’s more, but I will spare the reader. For those so inclined, see pages 16-21 of the GAO report for the Army DOT&E technical bunkum, and the GAO’s devastating rebuttal on pages 78-84.)

GAO makes this additional point:    “Army Research Laboratory and [Department of Justice]-certified laboratories use the benchmark process of measuring back-face deformation at that deepest point, not at the point of aim.”

There is it is:  Both the Army’s own premier research laboratory, and the Department of Justice agency responsible for testing all domestic law enforcement equipment, both require that BFD be measured at the deepest point.

When you add the “Rounding Down” practices previously reported  to the “pick your point of impact” practiced by Army testers, you have test results that are simply a joke.  Unfortunately, for our brave young men and women serving in harm’s way, this is no laughing matter.

For those keeping score:  Contractors – 2   Soldiers – 0

Roger Charles

SFTT Editor

0

Flawed Body Armor Tests: “Rounding” Measurements

Posted by:

The October, 2009 Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) report to Congress, entitled “Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding,”  confirms deviations from approved US Army testing protocols, “the majority of which seem to make the testing easier to pass and favor the vendors . . .”   One glaring example of this skewed testing in favor of military suppliers are “Rounding” Measurements of Back-face Deformation (“BFD”).

When a test bullet strikes the target ceramic ballistic protective plate and does not penetrate the plate, the impact of the strike can make a depression in the clay backing placed behind the plate to simulate the plate being worn on a torso.  In the ballistic testing world, this depth of this depression is called BFD, and the degree of BFD is can be cause for assigning a “limited failure” or even a “catastrophic failure” to that specific test plate, depending on the measured BFD.  (Visualize the depth of the BFD to the clay backing of a test plate and then visualize having your sternum or spinal column depressed by 1.7 inches to 1.9 inches to get an idea of why BFD  is a “BFD”.)

For the testing reported on by this GAO inquiry, for a first test shot a BFD greater than 43 millimeters (1.7 inches) but less than 48 millimeters (1.9 inches) is evaluated as a “limited failure,” while a BFD “greater than 43 millimeters on a second shot” also qualifies a “limited failure.” Any BFD on any shot equal to or greater than 48 millimeters is evaluated as a “catastrophic failure.”

During these Back-Face Deformation Tests (“BFD”), the GAO noted:  “Army testers rounded down back-face deformation measurements which is not authorized in established testing protocols . . .”    Take a deep breath, and read that sentence again.   The Army and the DOT&E had a choice when it came to rounding (if they wanted to do it at all). They chose to round down.   Here’s an example cited in the GAO report:  On one shot with a BFD measured as 43.306, the Army recorded the 43.306 mm BDF as a 43 mm BFD, and the shot went from “failed” based on empirical data, to passed (with no penalty).  

GAO wrote about the overall test sample (of 14 shots) from which the immediately preceding BFD data was taken:   According to official test data, only 7 of these 14 shots were failures (50 percent). This is due to the Army’s practice of incorrectly rounding down back-face deformations during First Article Testing [phase 2].  One shot that resulted in a back-face deformation of 43.306 was officially rounded down to 43 and not penalized, but had Army testers [and their DOT&E overseers] followed the protocols and not rounded this result down, 8 of the 14 shots would have resulted in penalties.

The result is crystal clear: When presented with an opportunity to select an option that could have decreased risk to Soldiers while increasing risk/cost to contractors, the Army and DOT&E chose the opposite. DOD chose the option that increased risk to Soldiers while reducing risk/cost to contractors.

 Pouring salt into the Army/DOT&E festering sore, GAO wrote:  “. . . officials we spoke with from one private industry ballistics testing facility said that their practice was to always round results up, not down . . . As a result of rounding [down], two designs passed First Article Testing that would have failed if the measurements had not been rounded.”

If you are keeping score:  Contractors – 1   Soldiers – 0

Unfortunately, there is more to these consistently contrived test procedures that I will report in subsequent news articles for SFTT.

Roger Charles

SFTT Editor

0

GAO Report Slams Body Armor Test Procedures

Posted by:

The October, 2009 Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) Report to Congressional Requesters, titled “Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding,” contains this devastating observation:

“Due to these deviations [from approved testing protocols], the majority of which seem to make the testing easier to pass and favor the vendors, we continue to believe that it is necessary to have an independent external expert review the results of First Article Testing and the overall effect of DOD’s deviations on those results before the plates are fielded.”

The GAO study confirms what SFTTand others have been saying for several years:  Flawed test procedures and the failure of the US Army to apply their own test protocols fairly and impartially has likely resulted in inferior body armor for US troops serving in harm’s way.    No wonder the Pentagon and its congressional enablers have tried to pretend that the report says something different from what GAO wrote into the official record.

In subsequent News updates for SFTT, I will cite specific examples as to why the GAO report is so devastating to the US Army and the Department of Defense and how contractors have generally been favored to the detriment of the safety of our frontline soldiers.

Roger Charles

SFTT Editor

0

Levin, McCain Request Review of Body Armor Systems

Posted by:

By Roger Charles

President’s Note:

Well, folks, sometimes things move much faster in Washington than experience would lead one to expect. This happened Monday and yesterday (May 21 and 22) when Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, Chairman and Ranking Minority Member respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee short-circuited the public dispute between the Army acquisition mafia and NBC News about recent NBC reporting (assisted by SFTT and DefenseWatch) that showed Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin performed “significantly better” (the words of retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing) than the DOD issued Interceptor Body Armor system in the first-ever comparative “shoot-off.”

SFTT/DefenseWatch have had as our final objective on the body armor issue for over a year and a half: “best-available” body armor for America’s frontline troops, and as the first intermediate objective we have called for full and fair ballistic tests of all feasible body armor systems to determine what is truly “best-available.” Once such testing takes place, America’s Grunts and their families and friends will finally have a definitive answer to the question as to what body armor these great defenders of freedom should be wearing on the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continue Reading →

0
Page 3 of 3 123