Taliban snipers test body armor and helmets

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A recent article by Terri Judd of London-based The Independent entitled “Sharp rise in Army deaths from small arms fire prompts inquiry into Taliban snipers,” suggests that troops may not have the proper helmets or body armor to deal with the changing tactics of the Taliban.   

According to the article, “commanders in Afghanistan are examining whether a sharp rise in troops being killed by gunfire is a sign that a better trained or equipped Taliban is targeting soldiers with snipers.   More soldiers have been killed by small arms fire in the past four months than in the whole of any previous year. While deaths by bullet accounted for just 13 per cent of those killed in combat in 2009, that figure has risen to almost 40 per cent in recent months.”  Many of these deaths are attributable to single shots from sharpshooters, or even trained snipers.

American General James Conway recently told the US House Armed Services Committee: “Right now, the biggest threat in Marjah is not necessarily the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) for our killed in action. It is the sniper that takes a long-range shot and can penetrate our protective equipment, particularly the helmet.”

Some of those interviewed for this article suggested that it was too early to tell if the high incidence of deaths caused by small arms fire signals a change in enemy warfare tactics, but if so we need to place increased emphasis on upgrading body armor and helmets to deal with this new threat.

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Congressman Carney and defective military helmets

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Congressman Chris Carney (D-PA) has rightfully asked that defective military helmets now produced by UNICOR or Federal Prison Industries (“FPI”) be turned over to private enterprise.  In yet another stunning indictment of a thoroughly incompetent, ineffective and some might argue corrupt military procurement system, the Department of Justice recently launched an investigation into the recall of 44,000 military helmets which failed to meet required military test procedures.   The contract was awarded to ArmorSource LLC, who in turned subcontracted the work to Federal Prison Industries. 

According to a Pennsylvannia Politics news release,  the Army apparently awarded Federal Prison Industries a contract to produce 600,000 Advanced Combat Helmets in 2007, more than half of the Army’s needs.  “This contract was awarded on a non-competitive basis to FPI pursuant to a provision in the U.S. procurement regulations that gives FPI the first right of refusal on contracts with the U.S. government.”

The article goes on state that in 2008 “FPI was awarded another ballistic helmet contract, this time for the delivery of 100,000 Lightweight Helmets for the U.S. Marine Corps. This represented 100 percent of the Marine Corps needs and effectively shut out private industry from supplying this product. Congressman Carney’s office has learned that under both of those contracts, Federal Prison Industries has failed to pass first article testing, the process to ensure the equipment meets specifications. Both contracts are now more than 18 months past due without a single acceptable helmet being delivered. And based upon information received from the U.S. Department of Justice, FPI’s production of helmets is under investigation.”

SFTT has not yet been able to confirm the allegations detailed by Congressman Carney’s office, but certainly the broad scale of this investigation is disturbing, but hardly surprising given the lax supervision and controls in our military procurement process.   It would be most interesting to know who the beneficial owners are of ArmorSource LLC and whether they have the “right” to subcontract work to third parties under US military contract awards.

Also, I understand that Congressman Carney believes that there are least two well-qualified firms in Pennsylvannia able to step in to produce the military helmets.   Since the private sector has proved to be as equally incomptent and negligent as FPI in producing combat equipment to specifications, I am hopeful that that “reliable” testing and vetting occur before any new contracts are awarded.  I am sure that Congressman Carney would place our National interests ahead of any parochial interests to insure that our young men and women have the best combat gear possible.

Richard W. May

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More on Military Helmet Recall

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We had previously reported that the US Army had recalled 44,000 military helmets that failed to meet the required government mandated test standards.  The manufacturer, ArmorSource in Hebron, Ohio, is now under investigation by the Department of Justice.  To determine if you have been issued a defective helmet, please consult the guide below that was furnished by Stars and Stripes:

Defective Helmet Checklist

In an interesting, but by no means surprising development, the Stars and Stripes reports that these defective military helmets had actually been subcontracted to UNICOR, the Federal Prison Industries.  A spokesperson for UNICOR indicates that production has been suspended.  Apparently, a new investigation has been instituted to determine how many other military contracts have been awarded to the Federal Prison Industries.

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44,000 Military Helmets Recalled

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get much worse, it has now been reported that the US Army has recalled 44,000 helmets which failed to meet US Army testing standards.  In an article reported in Yahoo news, helmets manufactured by ArmorSource in Hebron, Ohio currently issued to troops serving in Afghanistan were recalled following an investigation by the US Justice Department.

According to Brigadier General Pete Fuller, who is quoted in the article, the helmets were issued to American troops in 2007, including soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Says General Fuller, “We don’t know where they (helmets) are. So they could be on some soldier’s head in either Iraq or Afghanistan. They could also be anywhere else in the world.”

ArmorSource, claiming to have been surprised by the investigation, has issued a one-page statement on their website claiming they will cooperate with the investigation into the defective military helmets.

General Fuller indicated that  ArmorSource manufactured 102,000 helmets under a 2006 contract at a cost of $250 a piece. Of that number, 44,000 were distributed to troops and have been recalled, while 55,000 are still in storage and the military refused to accept the remaining 3,000.

In yet another glaring indictment of the DoD military procurement process, it is worth recapping the current ongoing investigations:

  • body armor currently worn by our frontline troops failed to meet minimum test protocols as reported by the GAO and IG and is currently being investigated by the Committee for Government Oversight and Reform;
  • the standard issue M4 carbine is not effective for combat in Afghanistan according to US Army sources;
  • the DoD Inspector General has reported on serious deficiencies in the supply of spare parts for the M2 heavy machine gun deemed essential for combat in Afghanistan.

As Roger Charles, Editor of SFTT, has reported “the shoddy procurement process within the DoD only confirms that the problems indentified by SFTT are truly systemic and not unique to body armor.”

If we would accord our brave heroes the same level of oversight that we pay to defective brake pedals, most of our troops would probably be in a stateside repair shop since the combat equipment we are providing them seems best suited for paintball warfare.  Where is the outrage?

Richard W. May

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Basic Five B.E.S.T Campaign to Support the Troops

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Ever since its inception, Soldiers for the Truth (“SFTT”) has been focused on insuring that our frontline troops have the best possible equipment to accomplish their mission and come home alive safely and in one piece.  Our campaigns have been based on providing our troops with the “Best Equipment to Support the Troops,”  often referred to as our “B.E.S.T.” Campaign strategy.   While much of our recent investigative reporting has been focused on body armor, SFTT will soon be extending its investigative reporting to cover the BASIC FIVE combat equipment items necessary to properly equip our brave heroes serving in harm’s way:  Body Armor, Helmets, Rifles, Sidearms and Combat Boots. 

 

BODY ARMOR TO WARD OFF LIFE-THREATENING INJURY

When it comes to saving lives, the Military’s standard-issue body armor has been independently tested and shown to be significantly inferior to body armor worn by knowledgeable high-ranking officers, top civilian officials, their body guards, contractors in Iraq, Special Forces with discriminatory funds and others with the luxury of choice.

 

HELMETS

Standard-issue helmets which ignore current human factors engineering and are far from optimally effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries, the Iraq war’s signature injury. 

 

RIFLES THAT AREN’T JAMMERS

The CAR-4 standard-issue rifle is a modified version of the M-16, which our troops have complained about since Vietnam. Forty-five years later, impractical maintenance requirements still contribute to all-too-common jamming, a fatal flaw on the battlefield.

 

MILITARY SIDEARMS THAT SHOOT STRAIGHT

The standard-issue 9 millimeter pistol has reliability and trust problems. The bottom line: it has too often failed to stop a determined opponent.

 

COMBAT BOOTS THAT FIT THE MISSION

The standard-issue combat boot—designed to be all-purpose—is a footwear failure. When America commits to “boots on the ground,” the troops should have mission, climate and terrain-specific gear that can go the distance.

Like our ongoing investigation into body armor, it is clear that our frontline troops have deficient combat equipment and our military leadership has done little – if anything – to properly equip them for their hazardous mission.  Over the coming weeks and months we will provide you with some of our preliminary findings and I am convinced that you too will share our outrage at how our troops are presently outfitted for combat.

 I still vividly recall David’s and my outrage over Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s cynical and uncaring response to Army Spc. Thomas Wilson plea for better equipment:  “You go to war with the Army you have – not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”    We were outraged for the rest of Hack’s life and I still am!!!!

Paraphrasing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “Troops go to war with the military leadership they have – not the leadership they deserve!” It is sad to say that almost 6 years later, our military leadership hasn’t yet to take the necessary steps to provide our frontline troops with the equipment they deserve. Shame on you Secretary Rumsfeld and shame on our military leaders who continue to sidestep the safety of our troops.

Eilhys England

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