Body Armor Testing: Spin Doctors working overtime

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The latest flap over think is really “real” or even close to the truth.

This morning, I woke up and read an article on Yahoo’s news entitled “Is America’s Body Armor Defective?”  The alleged author of the article is Charles Simmins.  Now I have no idea who Charles Simmins is, but apparently there is a Yahoo contributor and freelance author  named Charles Simmins who is an accountant.    Nevertheless, if this Charles Simmins is the Charles Simmins of Yahoo contributor fame who wrote the article, one must question his credentials or ask the question: Is Mr. Simmins simply serving as a mouthpiece for the Pentagon Spin Doctors?

The central issue is not whether government-issued and apparently infrequently-tested body armor is “the best body armor in the world,” but whether our military leadership actually believes that it is.  Surely, the Talking Heads at the Pentagon have more than adequate information on Interceptor body armor to determine its effectiveness and  reliability, but they rarely share the facts with the public or the troops they equip.

When someone tells me they have the “best” protective gear available, I always ask, “What is the Israeli Defense Force, Mossad, CIA and SpecOpsCommand operatives wearing?”  If it isn’t Interceptor Body Armor, I have a tough time believing our government-issued body armor  is the “best in the world.”

The other thing that irritates me in the Charles Simmins’ article is the insinuation that Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, “a noted anti-war activist,” is somehow responsible for sloppy and largely non-existent testing of body armor supplied to US troops.  The report documenting these irregularities and short-comings in body armor testing was from the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Defense.  Ceramic plates have no political affiliation:  they are either effective or defective.

Sleep well Beltway spin doctors, our troops are on the perimeter defending your liberties.  Whether they have reliable body armor is still a matter of conjecture.

Richard W. May

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Body Armor Testing: Deja vu all over again.

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Every couple of years or so (and sometimes more frequently) US Army body armor testing procedures are called into question by investigating authorities.  There used to be a saying among Army troops “that you never had time to do things right, but you always had time to do them again.”  Well, apparently in this modern army, you don’t even have “to do things right” if Lt. Gen. Phillips and his cohorts like Col. Cole, Project Manager for Soldier Protection, and US Army Brigadier General Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer of the Soldier Systems Center, have anything to say about it.  And they do!

These talking heads continue to insist that we have the “best body armor in the world” despite a systemic failure to apply appropriate test procedures.  They simply dismiss any compelling evidence to the contrary as demonstrated by their well-orchestrated campaign against the latest DOD IG report on improper testing of Interceptor Body Armor Inserts.

Now, Gen. Phillips and his buddies at Ft. Belvoir believe that the public and our Congressional leaders have short memories and they can simply talk their way out of this most recent disclosure that something is dreadfully wrong in our military procurement system.  They just may well succeed, if past history is any indication.

For instance, take the GAO (Government Accountability Office) report of October, 2009 which recommended independent testing of body armor after their investigations had uncovered much of the same shoddy body armor testing now chronicled in the latest DOD IG report.   We listened to much of the same nonsense and double-talk from our military leaders, but in bowing to public pressure the Secretary of the Army asked the National Research Council to investigate body armor testing procedures.

I am not sure what became of this National Research Council study, but I suspect that its sole purpose was to lead Congress to think that “things are under control.”  Clearly, they aren’t.

It’s time to for Congressional leaders and our military brass to do the “right thing” and appoint leaders who are more interesting in the well-being and safety of our troops than military equipment suppliers.  SFTT thanks Congresswoman Louise Slaughter for instigating the latest study.  We now urge you and your Congressional colleagues to follow-up.

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Latest DOD IG Report on body armor confirms “reality testing” has replaced Quality Assurance testing

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The latest DOD IG report confirms — again — the scandalous lack of required testing for Interceptor Body Armor’s ballistic protective plates. A long-time industry insider has summarized the unstated and shocking meaning of the report: “What we have now is ‘reality testing’ where a failure is no longer a statistic, but a real live warrior.”

This simple statement strips away the Pentagon spin and exposes this ugly truth: All the crocodile tears Bob Gates can blubber while signing condolence letters will not wash away the reality that Gates, like his predecessor Don Rumsfeld, protected the players in the corrupt acquisition system whose criminal malfeasance routinely sent inferior, sub-standard body armor to our frontline troops.

Yes, it’s just that simple. Gates and Rumsfeld paid a lot of lip service to caring for our dedicated warriors, but when it came to seeing to it that something as important as protective ballistic plates were thoroughly tested before being issued to combat theaters, well, they just couldn’t be bothered.

And the congressional enablers have supported this sad state of affairs. Such stalwarts of the Military Industrial Complex as Carl Levin, John Warner, Buck McKeon, “Uncle” Ike Skelton, and Duncan Hunter (both Sr. and Jr.) should have to answer for their shameless failure to ensure proper testing of body armor before it was shipped to the bloody killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is appropriate to acknowledge the singular contribution of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter who kicked off this series of investigations after reading the 2006 NYT article citing SFTT’s report on Marine casualties due to lack of side-protective plates. (The plates were sitting in warehouses in the U.S. until the NY Times article was published.)

 This pathetic situation has been common knowledge inside the industry. Here’s the full quote from this most knowledgeable source cited above:

“If the defective protocol applies to the FAT (First Article Acceptance) then all subsequent production based on such a FAT is also deficient to the extent of the protocol. If this defective production lot is submitted for acceptance, any deficiency adds to the already embedded defects. There is no way to reconstitute a particular production lot once it has been issued and the product undergoes “use” stress. To certify what is now issued is to evaluate each plate physically to a non-destructive test [i.e., the vaunted field x-raying of plates by both the Army and the Marine Corps]. This accomplishes nothing. What we have now is ‘reality testing’ where a failure is no longer a statistic, but a real live warrior. “

This longtime insider is pointing out that by failing to properly test the plates during the acquisition process, the “reality test” is performed in combat on the plate of a “real live warrior” by the bullets of an equally live enemy combatant.

And how does the Army choose to respond to its indefensible conduct on the issue of flawed or non-existent testing that results in issuing sub-standard, inferior protective plates? In the NY Times article of August 17, 2011, they’ve “doubled down.”

The Army’s previous incredible claim was that no trooper has died because of defective body armor. An Army spokesman has now expanded that specious claim to state that no trooper has even suffered a wound due to defective protective plates!!

 Here’s the quote:

“The body armor in use today is performing as it was intended. We are continuing to research our data and as of now have not found a single instance where a soldier has been wounded due to faulty body armor.”

If this blatantly false claim is true, why won’t DOD release the forensic records held by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology which SFTT has requested under the Freedom of Information Act, and which document the performance of ballistic protective plates for every KIA and WIA?

Instead of releasing these records and these records. Indeed, when the federal judge recommended that the attorneys representing SFTT sit down with government lawyers to work out a compromise on what data would be released, the U.S. Department of Justice flatly refused to even meet with SFTT’s attorneys!

As one close observer of this sad story responded today to the latest limited, modified hangout from the DOD IG:

“As long as they can keep the pathology studies under wraps, they can continue to tell lies with impunity.”

Roger Charles

Editor SFTT

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