Army Expresses Confidence in Soldier Body Armor
What is it?
Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates, have been used by our Soldiers since 2005. They are part of the Interceptor Body Armor system currently provided to Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. All body armor, including ESAPI plates, is subjected to stringent testing before being issued to Soldiers and then continues to be evaluated for conformity with Army standards.
What has the Army done?
A recent Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) report on body armor identified several issues involving Army testing processes and documentation dating back to 2005. The Department of Defense's Directorate of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), along with senior Army leadership, examined the Army's testing of the armor plates referred to in the IG report and determined that the plates passed all tests. Army testing protocol requires that before body armor is issued to Soldiers, it must pass a stringent First Article Test and then pass a Lot Acceptance Test. Along with those two levels of testing, a third level of evaluation, continuous surveillance, ensures that fielded body armor continues to meet or exceed performance standards. A fourth level of quality control consists of the preventive maintenance checks and services, which have been reemphasized to the troops in the field.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
Since the DOD IG raised this issue, as well as to ensure that there is no question about the effectiveness of any Soldier's body armor, the Army is collecting 16,413 sets of body armor plates and will hold them pending further review. As for our current testing procedures, the Army has made significant reforms to include moving the testing process from a National Institute of Justice certified contractor test facility to the Army Testing and Evaluation Command (ATEC). Furthermore, the Army is increasing the scrutiny and documentation of its testing processes.
Why is this important to the Army?
The Army provides its Soldiers the best equipment available. Secretary of Army Pete Geren has said that there is nothing more important than the safety of our Soldiers, their confidence in their equipment, and America's confidence in their Army. Secretary Geren, to put this issue into perspective, pointed out that of more than 2,300 body armor tests conducted by the Army, the DOD IG has questioned only three tests. He also said that since 2002, the Army has produced and fielded over 2 million plates of body armor, and that body armor has saved the lives of thousands of Soldiers.
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