Saturday, November 19, 2005


Think about this article from ARMY TIMES when you hear "SUPPORT THE TROOPS".

Army, Marine Corps recall 18,000 body armor vests

By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer
The Army and Marine Corps yesterday issued a recall for more than 18,000 body armor vests that did not pass ballistic requirements when they were manufactured in 2000 and 2001.

The recall is in addition to the more than 5,000 Marine vests recalled in May after a Marine Corps Times investigation showed the vests had failed tests, yet were still approved and fielded to troops in the war zone.

The Corps learned of the problem after a Pentagon-initiated review of the ballistic strength of outer tactical vests that had returned from deployments to Iraq. After reviewing original test data from the vests’ production lots, Army and Pentagon officials discovered eight lots were accepted and fielded to the Marine Corps despite originally failing tests, according to a written Marine Corps response to a Times’ reporters’ questions.

The 10,342 recalled Marine vests were fielded in 2000 and 2001 to units across the Corps, both active duty and Reserve, according to Corpswide message, MarAdmin 544/05, which was released yesterday.

The evaluation of previous test data also revealed the Army fielded six lots of vests with failing grades, or more than 8,000 vests, in addition to the 10,000 being recalled by the Marine Corps.

Army officials were unable to provide immediate comment on the recall, Pentagon officials said.

The Pentagon’s inspector general could soon launch an investigation into “how these vests were fielded to Army and Marine units,” officials said.

Marine officials said the recall does not affect the ballistic plates inserted in the vests that protect against rifle shots. The so-called “outer tactical vest” — which consists of layers of ballistic-resistant Kevlar inside an outer nylon shell — is designed to protect against some fragmentation and all 9mm pistol threats.

The recall comes six months after the Corps issued a similar recall of more than 5,000 vests that Army testers at Aberdeen Test Center, Md., believed had critical, life-threatening flaws. Army engineers in charge of certifying the quality of Marine vests recommended the Corps not field about 19,000 vests in more than 19 production lots manufactured in 2003 and 2004 by Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Point Blank Body Armor Inc.

The Marine Corps, in today’s written response, maintained that there is “no evidence to suggest that soldiers or Marines have been at risk, or that these vests will not protect against the threat they were designed to defeat.”

Speaking of the 5,000 vests recalled in May — and before this latest recall was made public — Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee said, “We recalled them for one reason and one reason only, and that is because we did not want any Marine out there to feel like he was wearing something that was not up to speed.”

“I still believe today that all the equipment that we recalled was good equipment,” he said during a Nov. 2 interview with Marine Corps Times reporters and editors.

The May and November recalls affect more than 15,000 vests out of a total buy of 191,000 OTVs going back to 1999, the Corps says.

After the May 9 Marine Corps Times article revealed the vests manufactured in 2003 and 2004 failed ballistic tests, the Pentagon’s Department of Operational Test and Evaluation initiated an investigation into body armor testing procedures servicewide. The Marine Corps tested vests at both Point Blank and Aberdeen Test Center to certify their ballistic strength, while the Army preferred to use a civilian company, H.P. White Labs in Street, Md.

In an effort to standardize the test procedures, DOT&E, along with Army Program Executive Office Soldier, Army Test and Evaluation Command and the Army Research Lab, initiated a “surveillance study” in August to verify that OTVs in both the Army and Marine Corps were up to standards, a Pentagon official said.

In September, Pentagon, Army and Marine officials tested some OTVs “recently returned from current areas of operation” and compared those results with the original 2000 and 2001 test results certifying the quality of the vests for fielding, explained Corps spokesman Maj. Doug Powell.

During research into the original quality assurance data on the vests tested in September, officials found that eight lots of Marine vests had actually failed to meet contract specs in 2000 and 2001, Powell confirmed.

A DOT&E spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

A Pentagon official said a DoD inspector general investigation may be launched “to determine how these vests were fielded to Army and Marine units. A thorough investigation will reveal if deficiencies exist in the acquisition process, and make recommendations for corrective action.”

Read the whole story in the next issue of Army Times, on newsstands Monday, Nov. 21.

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