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Body Armor Recall - The DoD Inspector General VS. The Department of the Army

The Army—and the Department of Defense’s Directorate of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E)—disagree with the DOD IG’s conclusion that three body armor designs failed First Article testing and the implication, subsequently, is that the Army issued faulty armor plates to its soldiers.

The Washington Times had this story regarding the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) report on body armor that has caused the Army to recall 16,000 sets of ESAPI:

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Army recalls armor
Sara A. Carter
Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Army announced Thursday that it will withdraw from service more than 16,000 sets of ceramic body armor plates that the Pentagon's inspector general believes were not properly tested and could jeopardize the lives of U.S. service personnel. The Washington Times reported yesterday that the armor was deemed unsafe by Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell...

Read the whole article here.  It is a bit alarmist, but has some good points in it.

Over at The Captain's Journal, Hershel Smith succinctly describes why the DOD IG and the US Army are at odds over the testing of the body armor.  The Captains' Journal also does an excellent job of explaining why the US Army testing was not at fault.  Go read the analysis. 

The Army has decided to act with an abundance of caution until this issue can be resolved (although the Secretary of the Army says this is NOT a recall but just pulling the units in question out of combat).

Here's an enlisted perspective on body armor:

ARMY.MIL - Sgt. Jeremy Ross of the Pentagon Channel interviews Sgt. Maj. Coleman about effective body armor plates.

After the Jump is an information paper from the U.S. Army regarding its testing process and procedures for body armor.   

We'll see what the results will be, but I would bet that the Army will be supported in their view on this one.  And I think we can all agree that we need better armor that is LIGHTER.  This is a program that should not be cut but should be increased in size and scope.



                                                                                                                       29 January 2009

SUBJECT:  Army Testing of Body Armor

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) report on Body Armor identified a range of issues involving Army testing processes and documentation dating back to 2007.  By and large, the Army agrees with the DOD IG report and commends the IG’s office for its thorough and constructive evaluation of Army testing procedures.

In fact, the Army had already identified problems raised by the IG and has moved aggressively to fix them   Indeed, since June 2007, the Army has instituted comprehensive testing reforms, with oversight by the Department of Defense’s Directorate of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) and considerable involvement by senior Army leadership. Among the many important improvements already instituted is assigning responsibility for article testing to the Army Test and Evaluation Command instead of using outside contractors.

However, there is one critical component of the DOD Inspector General report that the Army does not agree with.  The DoD IG reviewed 21 designs of body armor conducted by the Army.  The Army had determined that 13 of the 21 failed the test, while 8 passed.

The DoD IG concluded that three of these eight that had passed the Army’s test actually failed.  The Army and DOT&E, the Department of Defense’s testing expert, disagree with the DoD IG’s conclusion.  The implication is that the Army issued faulty armor plates to Soldiers, which goes to the heart of the Army’s commitment to protect its Soldiers.

The DOT&E is the government’s preeminent and independent authority in the highly specialized field of ballistic testing.  The Director, OT&E examined the three tests of the plates at issue and concluded that they did pass the test. 

Since there is a major disagreement between the DOD IG and the experts at DOT&E as to whether the plates passed testing and since the Army takes this matter so seriously, the Secretary of the Army has asked the Deputy Secretary of Defense to adjudicate the opposing views of the DoD IG and DOT&E.  However, because the DoD IG raised this issue and to ensure there is no question about the effectiveness of any Soldier’s body armor, the Army will collect these body armor plates and hold them pending further review.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of our Soldiers, their confidence in their equipment, and America’s confidence in their Army,” said Secretary of Army Pete Geren.  “Let’s put this into perspective. Out of more than 2,300 body armor tests conducted by the Army, the DoD IG is questioning three of them.  DOT&E, the government’s preeminent independent expert, says the plates passed those three tests.  And let’s not forget, since 2002, we have produced and fielded over 2 million plates of body armor.  That body armor has saved the lives of thousands of Soldiers.”

Point of contact for this notification is MAJ Matt Jemmott, 703-697-4418, Office of Chief of Legislative Liaison.