Posts Tagged ‘Interceptor body armor’

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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.

The Pentagon spin doctors are working overtime  to cover-up the latest IG report from the DoD which chides the Army for the lack of proper testing for is the most tested body armor in the world today.”

Lt. Gen Phillips goes on to say, “”I am not aware of any incident down range where the body armor failed to protect against a round that it was designed to defeat.”   The US Army then trots out examples of  where the government-issued (but apparently seldom tested) protective gear has saved lives and their more recent eyebrow-raising claim that they now X-Ray ceramic plates from troops in the field.

Col. William Cole, Project Manager for Soldier Protection, states that  “While they’re gone (troops coming off deployment) , there is a crew that will pull the plates out of their body armor and take it over to the X-ray machine and X-ray all plates, and if we find any that are cracked, which is rare but occasionally it happens, we’ll immediately replace them so two weeks later when they come back, they pick up their body armor and go back (to Afghanistan). Most of them have no idea that we have even done that.”

If true, it would be useful if the US Army could let us know what percentage of ceramic plates were cracked.  I doubt we will get that information, or the percentage of plates that were actually tested by X-ray.    Col. Cole’s assertion  sounds more self-serving than standard operating procedure.

Indeed, the USMC has discovered that 5% of ceramic plates show cracks even before that are shipped to the field.  Let’s face it, the facts simply do not support the positive spin on body armor testing  from US Army sources.

Consider the following short-list chronology of publicly known problems in our military procurement process:

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

In fact, we recently reported that shoddy test procedures of body armor go back many years as reported by Col. Jim MaGee, USMC (Ret.) who was the designer of the Interceptor Body Vest.

Nevertheless, Lt. Gen. Phillips seems not to be aware of the failure of ceramic plates in the field.  Perhaps, if he would order the release of DoD and US Army autopsy records requested by SFTT Editor Roger Charles under the Freedom of Information Act, we would finally learn the truth.  Does he really want to know?  Does he really care?  Or, what seems more likely, “Does he want the public to know?”

 

 

Designer of Interceptor Body Armor: The “Ugly” Truth About Army & Contractors Ignoring Stringent Test Requirements for Interceptor Body Armor

[Editor's note: Col. Jim Magee, USMC (Ret.) noted our recent posting on the "reality testing" for body armor that has been substituted for required acceptance testing by contractors before they ship protective plates for issue to our troops. He provided the following additional insights on the scandalous situation that has been allowed to develop.]

The body armor testing violations cited in the DOD IG report is actually worse than it seems on the surface.

Once the procurement reached mass quantities (starting 2004+), Ceradyne and Armor Holdings (the largest suppliers of SAPI and ESAPI plates), and Point Blank Body (PBBA, the largest supplier of the Interceptor vests Kevlar/Spectra soft body armor) were probably allowed to submit a “certification” paper, for each Army contract, validating the stopping power of their armor products as “tested, met or exceeded required Army standards.”

Army procurement was arguably derelict in their duties on these contracts; then tried to cover up their dereliction; lied to Congress about it (HASC in 2008), and went after the organization that brought the fraud to light – Soldiers For The Truth (www.sftt.org). [Editor's Note: now doing business as Stand For The Troops.]

As the designer of the Interceptor vest, and the President of PBBA through the first manufacturing contract, I know first hand that the Army’s standards during my tenure required:

 (1) each lot of soft armor roll (Kevlar and Spectra) is inspected before being cut; the soft armor vest, by lot, is shot to demonstrate it meets the standard (NIJ Level IIIA or greater). That test lot vest is to be retained with the test results. Given that over 2 million Interceptor vests were produced, that means there should be at least 50,000 lot tests fired and retained.

(2) each of the 4 million hard armor SAPI and ESAPI plates, by lot, were supposed to be similarly tested, with the test results submitted to the Army with the delivery of each lot, per order.

Due to the volume and urgency of the need to get these to the troops, the Army procurement personnel and the manufacturers apparently blew off these “test and document” requirements. I’ll bet that nothing happens to the manufacturers because the Army wants to save face and to have this issue buried (no pun intended).

Col. Jim Magee, USMC (Ret.)

 

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