By now, probably most of you have seen this story about the Army banning the use of privately purchased body armor. Three key points in the story are, of course, almost at the bottom. The Army has asked Pinnacle to provide 30 sets for independent testing, which the company will be able to provide in May; previous small-scale testing was "disappointing"; and, it also notes that more than $800k has been provided to Pinnacle in funding to develop improved armor. Pity that this information could not be brought up before the end...
When I saw the story last night, I asked some people to provide me with some thoughts. One of whom I think highly said:
First of all, the Army really doesn't have much of a choice but to put out a policy like that for a couple of reasons. First of all, unlike the enemy we face today, we wear uniforms and adhere to the rules of war as outlined by the Geneva convention and to remain in uniform the Army has to establish guidelines. More importantly, the Army has an inherent responsibility to protect and take care of its soldiers. If they allow Joe to wear whatever body armor he/she wishes and it should fail in combat, the public and press would have a field day with the Army for not properly protecting their kids. The article mentions a new Dragon Skin armor that is very appealing to soldiers, especially SF guys (I'm told from some of my SF friends) because it allows for much more mobility. What needs to be fixed is the system by wear the Army tests and appropriates these new technologies to make it quicker and more efficient.
... the Army has to err on the side of caution to protect your soldiers and just because the Dragon Skin might be popular with the boots on the ground, doesn't mean that it'll protect them when it matters.
For those interested, there is a good deal of information about attempts to reform the military procurement system, as well as changes, available at Winds of Change. In this case, it appears that Army procurement has been moving to deal with this situation, and not all the delays can be laid at their doorstep.
We can but hope that all parties will expedite as much as possible, and also know that the efforts to help give our troops the best possible protection are continuing.