Flawed Army Test Procedures for Body Armor

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I had previously reported that the GAO had found that the Army’s practice of incorrectly rounding down back-face deformations (“BFD”) would have caused two body armor designs that passed First Article Testing to “have failed if the measurements had not been rounded.”   This is just one of many testing anomalies  chronicled in the 110 page GAO report entitled:  Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding.

Not satisfied with the advantage granted contractors by rounding down BFD, the Army and DOT&E team found another blatantly suspect maneuver that placed Soldiers at higher risk while decreasing the risks and costs to contractors.   This  scheme involved the question of where to measure Back-Face Deformation (“BFD”)?  Seems like it’s a non-issue:  Take the measurement at the deepest point of the depression in the clay backing. 

GAO thought so, and said:   “According to original testing protocols, back-face deformation, was to be measured at the deepest point of the depression in the clay backing . . .  According to Army officials, the deeper the back-face deformation measured in the clay backing, the higher the risk of internal injury or death.”  

Not so fast.  The Army and DOT&E team decided that what counted, and what should determine where the measurement of BFD was taken, was the point of aim for the test shot.  They bandied about some convoluted trigonometric gobbledygook involving “plate curvature variances,” degrees of obliquity, and “the reference plane across the diameter of the indentation.” (There’s more, but I will spare the reader. For those so inclined, see pages 16-21 of the GAO report for the Army DOT&E technical bunkum, and the GAO’s devastating rebuttal on pages 78-84.)

GAO makes this additional point:    “Army Research Laboratory and [Department of Justice]-certified laboratories use the benchmark process of measuring back-face deformation at that deepest point, not at the point of aim.”

There is it is:  Both the Army’s own premier research laboratory, and the Department of Justice agency responsible for testing all domestic law enforcement equipment, both require that BFD be measured at the deepest point.

When you add the “Rounding Down” practices previously reported  to the “pick your point of impact” practiced by Army testers, you have test results that are simply a joke.  Unfortunately, for our brave young men and women serving in harm’s way, this is no laughing matter.

For those keeping score:  Contractors – 2   Soldiers – 0

Roger Charles

SFTT Editor

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