Inspector General: Army Improperly Tested Body Armor Plates

Originally published on August 17, 2011 1:25 pm

A report (PDF) from the Department of Defense's Inspector General details flawed quality assurance inspections of the body armor used by troops to stop bullets. The investigation, which was requested by Congress, looked at seven Army contracts worth $2.5 billion and awarded between 2004 and 2006.

What it found is that in some cases, the Army skipped some tests altogether, while in others it used inconsistent methodology. The report points out for example that The Army Program Manager Soldier Equipment (PM SEQ) "did not always use the correct size ballistic insert" or "use a consistent methodology for measuring the proper velocity, or enforce the humidity and temperature requirements."

In other cases, in order to expedite delivery, the PM SEQ skipped "the weathered and altitude" tests.

The bottom line, says the Inspector General, is the "the Army lacks assurance that 5.1 million ballistic inserts acquired through the seven contracts provide appropriate protection."

The report says, however, that investigators did not conduct their own tests so, "we could not conclude whether the deviations affected ballistic performance."

The AP reports the Army responded, yesterday, by saying it had begun improving the testing system:

The service also said "all inspector general recommendations to improve the testing processes have been implemented. ... The Army continues to work with the test community for test improvements to provide the best body armor possible to the soldier."

The Aug. 1 report was the fourth in a series by the inspector general in response to Rep. Louise Slaughter. Since January 2006, the New York Democrat has pressed the military about the effectiveness of body armor after The New York Times reported that 80 percent of Marines serving in Iraq who had been shot in the upper body had died because of inadequate body armor.

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