The Army improperly tested new bullet-blocking plates for body armor and cannot be certain that 5 million pieces of the critical battlefield equipment meet the standards to protect U.S. troops, the Defense Department's inspector general found.
The Pentagon report focused on seven Army contracts for the plates, known as ballistic inserts, awarded between 2004 and 2006 and totaling $2.5 billion. The inspector general's audit, carried out over a two-year period ending in March, found the tests were incomplete, conducted with the wrong size plates or relied on ballistic test rounds that were inconsistent. Due to the demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tests under certain temperatures and altitudes were scrapped altogether.
"Consequently, the Army cannot be sure that ballistic inserts meet ... requirements," the report said. "As a result, the Army lacks assurance that 5.1 million ballistic inserts acquired through the seven contracts provide appropriate protection."
The inspector general said it did not conduct its own tests so it couldn't say whether the plates were defective.
In response, the Army said Tuesday that it had initiated improvements to the testing system before and during the inspector general's audit. The service also said "all inspector general recommendations to improve the testing processes have been implemented. ... The Army continues to work with the test community for test improvements to provide the best body armor possible to the soldier."