Body Armor Works, Army Acquisition Official Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2011 — No Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­ber or civil­ian ever has deployed to the com­bat the­ater with defec­tive body armor, Army offi­cials stressed here today.

“I am not aware of any inci­dent down­range where the body armor failed to pro­tect against a round it was designed to defeat,” said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, one of the Army’s top acqui­si­tion offi­cials.

“There is noth­ing more impor­tant in Army acqui­si­tion. There’s noth­ing more impor­tant to our Army than sol­dier pro­tec­tion or sol­dier safe­ty,” Phillips said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence. U.S. forces have the best body armor in the world, he added.

The Army pro­cures body armor for all ser­vices and Defense Depart­ment civil­ians. A DOD Inspec­tor Gen­er­al Report on sev­en con­tracts between 2004 and 2006 looked at the way the Army test­ed body armor dur­ing that peri­od and what the ser­vice could do to improve it, he said.

“All of the rec­om­men­da­tions from that report have been imple­ment­ed,” Phillips said. “We won’t come to full clo­sure until Octo­ber this year, when we fin­ish the final rec­om­men­da­tions.”

Ser­vice mem­bers are the best judge of the body armor and hel­met issued today, said Army Col. Bill Cole, the project man­ag­er at Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office Sol­dier, adding that sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines issued the armor “have high con­fi­dence” in its pro­tec­tive prop­er­ties.

The Army will con­tin­ue to improve all equip­ment for ser­vice mem­bers, Phillips said. “We can always improve our process­es, and we can always get bet­ter,” said the gen­er­al added. “As we learn about bet­ter ways of test­ing, it is impor­tant we will imple­ment those changes.”

Dur­ing the peri­od of the report – 2004 to 2006 – the Army did not test how body armor responds when exposed to fun­gus and to alti­tude. The Army asked to be excused from those tests so the ser­vice could rush the life-sav­ing enhanced small-arms pro­tec­tive plates to ser­vice mem­bers, Cole explained.

The bot­tom line is that absolute­ly no one has been sent down­range with defec­tive equip­ment, Phillips said, and the Army con­tin­ues to test new equip­ment and to pull body plates from inven­to­ry to run tests.

“Time and time again, we’ve shown these plates stop the most stress­ing bul­let in the­ater,” Cole said. To pro­tect deployed ser­vice mem­bers, he added, would not dis­close what round that is.

Dur­ing the test, the Army fires the bul­let at the plates at a speed that far exceeds the muz­zle veloc­i­ty or the nor­mal weapon. “Again and again, they stop the ene­my bul­lets they were designed to stop,” Cole said.

Phillips and Cole said hun­dreds of sto­ries exist of ser­vice mem­bers sur­viv­ing point-blank ene­my fire with only bruis­es.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)