The Army behind the scenes has tested a sample of 32,000 body armor plates pulled from battle and has found that all passed — they met requirements to blunt sniper and other small-arms fire, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports.
Last month, Army Secretary Pete Geren took the extraordinary step of ordering the set-aside after the Pentagon’s inspector general said three lots totaling 32,000 plates — of more than 2 million issued to soldiers and Marines — had not been tested properly.
Inside the Ring learned that the Army also did something it did not announce: It star ted pulling samples — 48 ceramic body plates as of early last week — and put them under live fire and other tests. All plates “have met or exceeded the Army’s ballistic requirements,” the Army said.
Once the full results are announced, it should allay fears of U.S. service members who rely on the Interceptor body armor system to survive clashes with al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interceptor has critics in the blogosphere. They claim that the system of chest, back and side plates is defective and has cost lives. The Army, however, says the plate, called ESAPI, for Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, is the best body armor ever issued. The Army has awarded contracts to produce the next-generation plate, XSAPI.
Mr. Geren and other top Army officials are in a behind-thescenes battle to downplay the inspector general’s findings in Congress, which funds Interceptor, and for troops who wear it. It has asked Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III to intervene.
The IG said the three lots passed by the Army actually failed.
In a memo sent to Congress and obtained by Inside the Ring, the Army said the Pentagon director of operational tests and evaluation examined those three tests and concluded that “they did pass the test.”
Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at email@example.com.