By Roger Charles
On Friday of last week, MajGen Jeffrey Sorenson of the US Army stood up at a press conference and attempted, one more time, to drive a stake through the heart of that pesky Dragon Skin body armor, but, unlike the brittle SAPI plates of the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), Dragon Skin has proven capable of stopping multiple hits.
Sorenson will, no doubt, be rewarded for his extraordinary display of E-ring valor — he tried, and gave it his all. I expect the citation for his end of tour award will include the following boilerplate:
“On March 31, 2006, under withering questioning which swept the podium from numerous entrenched journalists, MajGen Sorenson valiantly stood his ground and directed accurate, sustained counter-fire against the media’s positions. Recognizing that one side of the Army’s carefully constructed barricade of lies had been penetrated, MajGen Sorenson quickly marshaled his forces to seal off the penetration and personally led the counterattack which resulted in a complete rout of the attacking journalists.”* The Perfumed-Prince “W” distinguishing device for Weasel-wording is authorized for wear with this citation.
Sorensen’s pretext for the news conference was the Army’s public acknowledgement of a March 17 Safety Of Use Message (SOUM), Number 06-017,”Discontinue Use of Unauthorized Body Army, Dragon Skin.”
Defense Watch’s Editor, Nat Helms, had obtained a copy of this SOUM and posted it on March 23, along with a brief introduction, “US Army Officials Continue to Trap Themselves In a Web of Deceit“.
Sorenson’s press dance appeared at first glance to have this straightforward purpose — to explain to the DOD press corps that the Army had taken this action in the best interests of America’s Grunts.
But, he soon disclosed the ulterior motive for his briefing — to announce that, “there is another service [USAF] that has procured this type of capability [Dragon Skin SOV 2000 Flexible Body Armor System], but has recently recalled it because it did not meet standards.”
Ah, now, the fun part. This Army general flat-out misrepresented two key points. One, that Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin “did not meet standards,” i.e., had failed a ballistics test conducted at Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) during 16-17 February.
Second, the Air Force component for whom the test was conducted, Headquarters Office of Special Investigations (OSI), had “recalled” the Dragon Skin.
As in most of the clever web of lies spun by the PP’s in DOD press rooms, the lies were concealed under a veneer of weasel-worded statements that must literally be deconstructed word-by-word in order to get to the truth. And the rosetta stone needed to reveal the Army’s perfidy is the ATC’s test report to HQ, OSI, Andrews AFB. The subject of this letter is: “Ballistic Testing of Pinnacle Armor Dragon Skin,” and it specifies that SOV 2000 was tested, not the SOV 3000.
A matrix listed eight tests, seven with 7.62mm Level IV rounds, and one “durability” test wherein the vests were dropped and “run over by a pickup truck (two passes).” [Note:remember the Interceptor SAPI plates are stamped "Handle With Care," and are shipped in boxes labeled, "Fragile - Do Not Drop." Don't expect Interceptor vests with the SAPI plates to undergo this kind of durability testing anytime soon.]
First, the Pinnacle Armor testing at ATC used all Level IV ammunition!! And Dragon Skin SOV 2000 is NOT advertised nor certified as Level IV ballistic protection. Here’s what the ATC test report said:
5. The SOV 2000 Flexible Body Armor System is advertised as a “Level III+” solution in which the “+” moniker denotes 0-m range protection from two “Level IV” threats (reference 1d)”: [NOTE: A table with two Level IV rounds, a 7.62mm and a 5.56mm, is presented. Only the "7.62 X 39-mm M1943 Ball Type PS" round was tested by ATC against the Dragon Skin SOV 2000.]
Given this, only Test No.3 from the matrix above could be considered applicable for confirmation of the ballistic performance of the system as was advertised in writing by the vendor.
6. Favorable results were observed on only two of the eight tests (Tests No.3 and 4)…” Now, folks, in everyday English, here’s what the above means: Dragon Skin SOV 2000, a Level III+ body armor, defeated “only” two of the seven Level IV rounds!!
So much for Sorenson’s patently false claim that Dragon Skin “did not meet standards. Dragon Skin not only met the standards, it exceeded them, and noticeably so!
Now, to Sorenson’s 2d phoney claim, that the other service “recalled it” (meaning Dragon Skin). Let’s stipulate that Sorenson is not stupid person, and that as an Army major general, serving as Deputy, Acquisition and Systems Management, for the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, he is learned in the correct terminology of his trade.
Ford, GM and Chrysler may “recall” things, but in DOD acquistion, a contract is either in effect or it is not. The Pinnacle Armor contract with AF OSI is, as of Monday, April 4, still an active contract.
Was Sorenson just too lazy to have one of his flunkeys pick up the phone and call the Air Force to find out what was the status of the Pinnacle Armor contract? Or, did an Army general knowingly misrepresent a significant fact on an item of life-or-death importance to America’s Grunts?
Let’s see what the ATC test report had to say about this issue.
7. While the samples successfully defeated the advertised “Level III+” threat, results of this test series did not meet the vendor’s [i.e., Pinnacle Armor's] expectation for the system for the other tested threats based on physical inspections of the targets and past testing at commercial ranges. This has resulted in their initiation of a root-cause investigation…
In other words, Dragon Skin SOV 2000 passed the Air Force standards, but did not exceed the standards as much as Pinnacle Armor expected. Therefore, Pinnacle Armor initiated their own investigation, focusing on Quality Control issues related to the manufacturing of the ceramic disks provided to Pinnacle Armor by its supplier.
Rather than the Air Force “recalling it,” the Dragon Skin manufacturer voluntarily took the vests back to inspect the ceramic disks and work with the company that manufactured these disks to see why the Level III+ vests only stopped about half of the other Level IV rounds in Tests 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7. (Remember — Dragon Skin SOV 2000 passed Tests 3 and 4.)
For those of you willing to give Sorenson and the Army the benefit of some doubt, that maybe he was confused about the two Dragon Skin versions, SOV 2000 and SOV 3000, save your charity for someone who deserves it.
The US Army and MajGen Sorenson are well aware of the difference between SOV 2000 and SOV 3000. In a synopsis posted on Federal Business Opportunities, the Army had announced on March 13, that it was negotiating with Pinnacle Armor for 30 sets of “Dragon Skin SOV 3000 with Full Level IV Wrap Body Armor.”
Once again, a Perfumed Prince has paid lip service to the myth that the Army acquisition system is concerned about and dedicated to providing America’s Soldiers equipment that “is safe, it is suitable and it’s effective.”
The ugly reality, exposed one more time, is that the Army acquisition system is concerned only with process, not product — with keeping a bloated, an inefficient, and, yes, too-often a criminal bureaucracy, occupied with “busy work” that pays for luxurious suites along “K” Street and funds golf trips to Saint Andrews. All the while, the best of our nation’s youth are exposed to increasingly lethal attacks while wearing inferior body armor that makes a mockery of “Duty-Honor-Country.”
P.S. The media response to Sorenson’s bald-faced lies deserves special note. Gullible DOD press representatives bought into the mendacious attack on Dragon Skin, and did so with gusto. Typical was the headline by Lolita Baldor, the Associated Press reporter: “Armor banned by Army banned by Air Force.” Sorenson could not have been more pleased if one of the designated liars in Army PAO had written the headline.
SFTT President Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send comments to DWFeedback@yahoo.com.