Stand for the Troops was founded by Col. David Hackworth over 10 years ago with the very simple premise that grunts in combat deserve the best combat equipment and protective gear available. It is a goal or expectation that I am sure most – if not all – patriotic Americans would support. In light of recent Marine Corps testing of ceramic plates used in body armor, we now learn that roughly 5% of these life-saving plates are defective.
While one might argue that a 95% equipment reliability is pretty good, the US Army leadership has publicly insisted for years that these ceramic plates are 100% reliable and there have been no recorded deaths due to defective body armor plates. This 5% gap is not about equipment reliability, it is a credibility gap that it so large that it undermines the integrity of the entire military procurement process and the military officers and civilians entrusted to administer these programs.
SFTT’s search for the truth regarding the testing and effectiveness of government approved body armor has been stonewalled at every step of the way by the Department of the Army and Department of Defense. Indeed, we have documented numerous GAO, IG reports, equipment recalls and clear evidence of ceramic plate failures that suggest shoddy test procedures, improper supervision and control and lack of accountability of those entrusted with making sure our troops have the best protective gear available. Why has our military leadership failed to level with the troops and the American public?
As late as October 2010, US Army Brigadier General Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer of the Soldier Systems Center at Fort Belvoir insisted that “we have the best body armor by far” in response to a scathing report by the GAO. Really? What hypocrisy.
Currently, SFTT Editor Roger Charles with the able assistance of the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis have sought to have forensic records of troops killed in action made public under the FOIA where there appears to be clear evidence of ceramic plate failures. Ignoring a request from the federal district court judge to attempt an out-of-court settlement, the Defense Department continues to block the release of this information. Why?
So insistent has been self-serving rhetoric from military officials that one concerned US Representative sent two letters to the Secretary of Defense inquiring whether rumors to the effect that medical aid and insurance would be withheld from troops not wearing government-issued body armor. Why was this necessary? Was it because troops knew that the government-issued equipment was defective and that there was more reliable protective gear available on the market?
In short, there is no end to the Beltway shuffle designed to keep a seemingly corrupt and, most certainly ineffective military procurement process hidden from public scrutiny. How much longer do we need to endure this blatant cover-up?
Let’s face it. The X-Ray machine has been around for over a hundred years. Didn’t it ever occur to those silver-tongued bureaucrats to test for cracks in the last 10 years while there has been so much public inquiry into the effectiveness of our military body armor?
Call it what you will, but the lives of young men and women in uniform are at stake. The time for Beltway spin and self-serving double-talk can no longer justify jeopardizing the safety of our brave heroes.