Friday, October 16, 2009

Army Says Body Armor Safe, Despite GAO Report

By C. Todd Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 16, 2009 - Despite testing anomalies cited in a Government Accountability Office report on body armor released today, the program executive officer for the organization that fields new equipment to soldiers said the armor plates in question are safe. At a Pentagon news conference just hours after release of the GAO report, Army said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller said the 85,000 "X Small Arms Protective Inserts" of interest in the report have not been fielded to soldiers and are in storage, and that the plates now in use are safe.

"We have the best body armor by far," Fuller said. "And we appreciate the oversight we get from organizations such as GAO, because what they do is ensure we provide the very best to our soldiers."

Fuller said the Army has worked closely with GAO and other organizations to improve testing and evaluation in the acquisition process, and that the Army has, in fact, made improvements. The GAO report, he said, points out pains the Army has had with improvements in its evaluation and testing processes.

"The challenge we are having with this GAO audit report is they are challenging our processes, and I think what we are really identifying is we have had an evolution of processes and we need to better articulate what we are doing there," he said.

The 85,000 inserts in question are ceramic plates that fit into tactical vests for wear by soldiers to provide protection against projectiles and fragmentation. The GAO report questions the Army's adherence to some testing protocols when evaluating the plates.

"Overall reliability and repeatability of the test results are uncertain," the report said.

Fuller said the Army is conducting additional testing on the plates to document their safety in compliance with standards. Phase II testing, he said, already has been conducted, and Phase III testing will start in November.

"We told GAO [and] we told the Hill yesterday, we are interested in taking all this data, the Phase II testing, Phase III testing, the additional surveillance testing -- wrap it all up in one report and provide it back to the Hill," Fuller said.

Fuller said he hopes to articulate to both GAO and Congress that although Army testing protocols have experienced challenges, the armor is, in fact, safe. Phase II testing on both plate designs in question have shown a "very high statistical confidence interval," the general said.

"They are fantastic plates," he added.

(C. Todd Lopez works at Army News Service.)

Book Review Of A Line Through the Desert

Reviewed by Trooper Phil Bolté- This is a book of modern war, soldiers, and romance. Author Stroock has written about a a young man who volunteered for Army service and became a trooper in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, then stationed in Germany. Well trained and motivated, Jake Bloom became a tank commander, leader of a four-man crew of an Abrams tank. And then came Desert Shield and Desert Storm and he found himself shipped to the Middle East and participating in the regiment's combat operations.

Stroock has done a good job of capturing the life of a soldier in a combat unit throughout his service in Germany and the Middle East. He describes accurately the challenges of the junior leader as he deals with his subordinates, peers, and superiors. Sergeant Bloom is able to walk the line between familiarity and discipline, a particular challenge of a tank commander. Underlying the military aspects of Bloom's life is a romance started and broken off before his movement to Germany, a home town romance that went sour. Without overdoing this aspect of the story, the author has made it realistic. It is the story of a teen-ager who grows up in years and in experience, the latter magnified by battle.

While the gutter language used throughout the book may be seen as adding realism, some will find it offensive and consider it detracting from the overall quality of the narrative. Soldiers who read this book will find the author's accuracy in describing weapon systems and their performance refreshing. He has, as well, captured the performance of soldiers in modern battle. -- Cavalry Journal (US Cavalry Association)

A Line Through the Desert May be Purchased Through Amazon.