Buried inside the devastating Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) October 2009 report on the Pentagon’s inability to demonstrate “overall reliability and repeatability” in body armor tests is this intriguing statement:
“Testing was halted for other high-priority tests involving 2,000 plates from Iraq that were identified as potentially cracked by nondestructive testing performed by the Army.” [Footnote 14, page 12, GAO-10-119 Warfighter Support.]
Whoa . . . these are the very same ceramic protective plates that the Pentagon claims have never failed. Never. Never ever! Not a single time. Not once in the past eight and one half years of combat in Afghanistan; not once in the past seven years of combat in Iraq.
By the way, this is the same GAO report that led to more than $121 million of ceramic plates being withheld from issuance to our frontline troops due to testing flaws that resulted in these plates not being certifiable as meeting the government’s performance specifications.
So, what gives?
Here’s just a bit of the back story on this battlefield miracle that sees no US grunt getting shot at (and hit) while wearing a ceramic protective plate before it develops cracks. Bear with me while we examine the tortured logic behind the Pentagon’s incredible claim of “no failures” by going through the sequence of events leading to the discovery of “potentially cracked” plates.
Action: Protective plate issued to trooper.
Status of ceramic protective plate: 100% pristine, perfect condition (no cracks, according to Army and DoD). [Editor’s Note: Each plate is issued with “HANDLE WITH CARE” stenciled on the strike face. “HANDLE WITH CARE” for gear to be issued to frontline infantry? If any reader knows of another item of personal gear issued to frontline troops with a similar label, please contact the SFTT Editor.]
Action: Troops wear plates in combat operations until plates are selected for X-ray tests.
Status of ceramic protective plate: Unknown percentage of plates develop cracks, in spite of “HANDLE WITH CARE” warning.
Action: Nondestructive X-ray examination by Mobile X-ray system.
Status of ceramic protective plate: X-ray system detects cracks in plates not detectable by visual inspection. [Editor’s Note: Percentage of all plates X-rayed that were designated “potentially cracked” is unknown.]
Action: “Potentially cracked” plates pulled from use and 2,000 sent back to US for “priority tests.”
Status of ceramic protective plate: Unknown percentage of “potentially cracked” plates failed tests.
Action: Pentagon and Army press offices continue to claim “zero failures” for ceramic ballistic plates.
Status of ceramic protective plate: Frontline troops continue to wear plates that are not “potentially cracked” until discovered to be so by X-ray system.
Yep. The Pentagon and the Army would have the mothers and fathers of America’s Grunts believe that every plate with cracks is magically detected by X-raying before ever receiving an enemy shot.
Anyone interested in this issue might query your elected representative and ask them to obtain the results of the “high- priority tests” of 2,000 “potentially cracked” plates as cited in the October 2009 GAO report. Sound Off now and make sure that our troops have the best protective gear and combat equipment available.
Senior Investigative Reportor and Editor SFTT