- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2009

The Pentagon’s inspector general has found that some body armor made for the Army from 2005 to 2007 failed initial ballistics tests designed to prove that the armor can block bullets.

An audit released Thursday said some of the ceramic plates tested from June 2005 to August 2007 failed and that bullets completely penetrated the armor.

The Washington Times first reported Wednesday that the Army is recalling more than 16,000 sets of ceramic body armor plates that the inspector general said were not properly tested and could jeopardize the lives of U.S. service personnel.

The audit found that in most of the 21 tests conducted on the recalled armor, the wrong size plates were used. The tests were not repeated with the correct plates.

“The contractor failed the test because there was a complete penetration on the first shot during the durability test,” the audit report said.

Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that develops and fields equipment for soldiers, said there have been no casualties because of defective ceramic plates.

All body armor, including the recalled ceramic plates, are subjected to X-ray tests and have not been found to be defective, he said.

“No one has been killed because they had defective body armor. And why’s that? Because we don’t issue defective body armor,” he told reporters Thursday during a conference call.

Others vehemently disagree.

Roger Charles, a retired Marine and editor of DefenseWatch, the Internet news magazine for Soldiers for the Truth, a nonprofit foundation representing front-line troops, said, “All this discussion of differing definitions … is a head fake to draw attention away from the key question: What caused the secretary of the Army to recall these 16,000 sets?”

“For the past 3 1/2 years, I have heard sources inside the body armor industry describe incidents where contractors have manipulated the required Quality Assurance/Quality Control testing of production lots of body armor in order to either increase profits or to meet the quantity demands of the U.S. military,” he said.

A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said that if requested by Congress or the administration, the inspector general’s office can continue the investigation.

He added that, “We determined that some of the procedures were not followed.”

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the Army is taking the initiative by recalling the armor, but he challenged the findings of Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell that the armor could be unsafe.

The equipment in question accounts for 1.6 percent of the 1.9 million plates that the Army has purchased to date, Mr. Boyce said.


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