In yet another scathing report by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense entitled “Ballistic Testing for Interceptor Body Armor Inserts Needs Improvement,” the IG “determined that ballistic testing and quality assurance for Inteceptor Body Armor did not have proper controls to ensure that the ballistic inserts met contract requirments.”
The IG report on shoddy US Army test procedures was released on August 1, 2011 and claims that the “Army Program Manager Soldier Equipment (PM SEQ) could provide only limited assurance that approved ballistic materials for approximately 5 million inserts on seven contracts met the contract requirements. Specifically, the following test procedures were not followed by PM SEQ:
- On two contracts no testing was performed because the PM SEQ “had no protection performance concerns on the inserts;”
- On all seven contracts, the PM SEQ did not always use the correct size ballistic insert for FATs, use a consistent methodology for measuring the proper velocity, or enforce the humidity and temperature requirements;
- On six of the seven contracts, the PM SEQ did not require weathered and altitude tests.
The PM SEQ’s response to these glaring test deficiencies is the following: ” . . . the size of the ballistic inserts , humidity and temperature would not affect test results . . . and the weathered and altitude tests were eliminated to expedite FAT in support of the urgent wartime requirement for ballistic inserts.
To readers of SFTT, this latest snub and blatant disregard for the IG Reports by the Program Manager for Soldier Equipment should come as no surprise. Nevertheless, it is hard to reconcile his cavalier approach to testing body armor plates considering the fact that the US Marine Corps X-Ray testing have concluded that battlefield.
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 similar scathing report by the GAO.
For years, SFTT has campaigned to help insure that our troops have the best body armor available. At every step of the way we have been stonewalled by the very same people entrusted to supply that equipment to our troops. A Federal judge has asked the Defense Department to reach an out-of-court settlement on Senior SFTT Editor Roger Charles’ FOIA which provides vital information on the efficacy of ceramic body armor plates.
The sad reality is that defective ceramic plates are responsible for many battlefield casualties and deaths that could have been avoided. How much longer does the public and our troops have to put up with these lies?
Really, imagine citing “urgent wartime requirements” for a war that has been going on for over 10 years and not testing ceramic plates for “altitude, temperature or weathering” when the battlefied is Afghanistan. After more than 5 years of sounding the alarm on the deficiency of military body armor, it is time to say goodbye to these hopeless bureaucrats at Ft. Belvoir and their supervisors at the Pentagon. The safety of young men and women serving in harm’s way is far too important to be entrusted to them.
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.
In what should come to no surprise to readers of SFTT, the Marine Corps has confirmed that government-issued ceramic plates used in body armor are flawed. In an article published in the Marine Corps Times, James K. Sanborn reports that the US Marines are using X-Ray machines to detect “cracks” in the ceramic plates used in body armor.
According to Master Sgt. Mateo Mathis, operations chief at Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment in Quantico, Va., So far, 40,000 plates about 5 percent of the 40,000 ceramic plates that have been subjected to the X-Ray tests have been found to have cracks.
Comments SFTT Editor Roger Charles
In this article the Marine Corps admits that the ceramic plates issued to only not perfect, but “about 5%” have “life-threatening flaws,” or as it prefers to call them, “cracks.”
Let’s be clear about one thing: if 95% of the plates X-rayed are not defective, that’s a hell of an accomplishment, and our troops and their families should feel good about this life-saving gear.
Why then does the Department of Defense continue its specious claims that the “success rate” on the battlefield is 100%.
That remains the case and this article doesn’t retract any previous claims that the ceramic plates issued to its Marine (and Navy corpsmen) have never failed, not a single time. That bit of honest disclosure is not there.
The key issue of whether these defective plates were in that condition when they left the manufacturers’ facilities or were made defective by use in combat theaters would seem to be a perfect issue for examination by the U.S. Congress. Don’t hold your breath — after nearly 10 years of non-stop combat, this obvious question was not been asked.
The article does quote one Marine trainer, “Plates are more easily damaged than many Marines realize… if the plate is dropped from 2- or 3-feet high, it could crack.”
As SFTT has previously written, the American public is expected to believe by some miracle all the defective plates are somehow discovered by these wonderful X-ray machines before there is a single impact from an enemy bullet. What are the odds?? (And what about the 8 or 9 years before the Corps had the X-ray machines?)
Left unsaid is how accurately the X-ray machines detect all cracks that could result in failure of the plate. For example, what size cracks are below the sensitivity of these X-ray machines, and do those smaller cracks lead to plate failure?
So, what appears on the surface to be an article of unmitigated “good news,” is somewhat less than that when placed into context of the continuing unanswered questions about Quality Control/Quality Assurance as practiced in the case of protective ceramic plates worn by America’s frontline troops.
SFTT reads with great interest that the US Army has awarded Ceradyne an order worth about $10 million for later in Q2, with completion estimated to be by Q3.
While one would not normally question our miliary leadership in making sure our troops have the very best protective gear, we still are seeking resolution to SFTT’s request for information on the reliability of ceramic plates used for body armor that was filed 18 months ago under the Freedom of Information Act;
“Well over a year ago, SFTT filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain forensic evidence of the reliability of am beginning to wonder if any of the beltway bureaucrats really care about the well-being and safety of our troops in the field.”
SFTT and the American public are still waiting for an answer to our FOIA, but it’s business as usual for the beltway desk jockies who continue to award multi-million dollar contracts for equipment that may be flawed. Don’t our troops and the American public deserve answers?
In yet another glaring example of sloppy body armor test procedures, the Inspector General says that the US Army “cut corners” when testing body armor according to Richard Lardner of the AP. This is not the first time – nor is it likely to be the last – that SFTT and major news organizations have reported on the systemic failure of the US Army and DoD to follow established test procedures when evaluating protective gear fielded by our young men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Granted, military vests cost the taxpayers only $434 million, but wouldn’t be nice to think that the military officials who our troops and their families rely upon to provide them with effective body armor would insure that this vital piece of protective gear is properly tested?
As readers of SFTT are aware, SFTT has chronicled a litany of military procurement and testing failures of those entrusted with providing our troops with best combat equipment possible.
Body Armor Recall
Body Armor Plate Recalls
Congressional Inquiry into Body Armor and Vehicle Safety
GAO recommendations on Body Armor Testing
Broken Military Procurement Process
Congressional Inquiry into Defective Military Helmets and no-bid contract awards
Flaws in M2 and M4 endanger troops in Afghanistan
DODIG sites fault in spare parts for M2 in Afghanistan
Well over a year ago, SFTT filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain forensic evidence of the reliability of ceramic platesused by military troops killed in action with wounds to their upper body. At every step of the way, SFTT has been stonewalled by DoD lawyers. It is clear that our military brass doesn’t want the “truth” to get out, because it is fearful that “we (the public) wouldn’t be able to handle the truth.” Indeed, I am beginning to wonder if any of the beltway bureaucrats really care about the well-being and safety of our troops in the field.
Given the level of scrutiny this flawed body armor has received over the past four years, there are only two possible explanations: gross incompetence or corruption. The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army have an obligation to publicly discipline those responsible for engaging in flawed tests and those that defended these test procedures when presented with incontrovertible evidence that test results were seriously flawed. In a civilian court of law, I would expect nothing less than a charge of manslaughter. It’s time to rid our military procurement system of sycophants and untrustworthy officers and civilian contractors who seem to have more interest in their next promotion or their pocket-book rather than the troops who defend our country so valiantly.
In a cycle of budget austerity, let’s get rid of these self-serving bureaucrats. Enough is enough!
As previously reported on SFTT – ! You can find more information about generic medications here.
In August 2007, Arkansas Fourth District Representative Mike Ross sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army requesting clarification. Secretary of the Army Pete Geren formally acknowledged in September that insurance and medical benefits would not be withheld if combat injuries (or death) were sustained while a service member was wearing unauthorized body armor. Nevertheless, Secretary Geren went on to add that “every Soldier, regardless of rank, is required to use/wear U.S. government approved equipment, such as the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) system.”
In order to clear up any possible misunderstanding, Arkansas Representative Mike Ross again sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense requesting further clarification. In a letter dated what appears to be November 2, 2010, Clifford L. Stanley on behalf of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) responded as follows:
QUOTE (Bold highlights added by SFTT)
Dear Representative Ross:
Thank you for your letter dated October 13, 2010, regarding the upcoming deployment of the Arkansas’ 39th Brigade Combat Team and the impact of body armor worn on benefits. This issue falls under the purview of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), and I have been asked to respond.
As you allude to in your letter, rumors regarding Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SOLI) payments and Department of Defense medical care as it relates to battle injuries or death when wearing commercially procured (Dragon Skin) body armor arise on occasion. Eligible benefits and medical support associated with SGLI or the Department of Defense (DoD) are paid or provided if a member is injured or killed in action while wearing commercially purchased body armor. The DoD Will not discriminate, as it relates to military health care, between Service members who wear government issued or commercially purchased body armor.
Title 38, United States Code, is the statutory authority for the portfolio of SGLI products (SGLI, SGLI Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI), Family SGLI, etc.) for which the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is responsible. Department of Defense staff consulted with VA and reaffirmed that wearing unapproved body armor, in and of itself, does not disqualify members for SGLI or TSGLI payments. Additionally, the question of privately purchase body armor is addressed on the VA’s myths and rumors website (web address follows): http://www.insurance.va.gov/SGLISITE/SGLI/mythsRumors.htm.
Medical benefits, as with SGLI payments, are not contingent on the type of body armor worn by Service members. The Services do not seek reimbursement for medical expenses connected to members wounded in combat when wearing commercially procured body armor.
Thank you for your concern in this matter, and for your support of the Service and family members of the 39th Brigade Combat Team.
Clifford L. Stanley
A facsimile of Mr. Stanley’s letter on third-party body armor may be downloaded from the SFTT website.