Point Blank Rage: the Body Armor Scandal
Posted by Jeff on January 17, 2006 • Comments (10)Permalink

Nathaniel Helms of Soldiers for the Truth brings us this bit of information concerning the ongoing body armor scandal.

Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were told to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action, they said.

Not surprisingly, these two soldiers asked remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from their superiors in the chain of command.

On Saturday, another soldier affected by the ban told Helms that U.S. Special Operations Command had issued a directive banning "all" commercially available armor.

The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.

At issue is the inferiority of standard military issue Interceptor OTV vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor to Dragon Skin and other commercially available body armor.
Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said. [Italics added.]

It sounds like this Army spokesman has picked up on the standard Rumsfeld Pentagon double talk. A casual observer might question whether sending soldiers into battle with inferior armor isn't the thing that aids the enemy, and whether talking about the problem might not actually fix it and defeat the enemy.

Of course, we've become so used to denial from the Pentagon and the administration's supporters we don't expect honesty.

According to Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press, Senator John Warner R-Va claims that he's satisfied the military is ensuring the troops have adequate body armor. "Everything that can be done, is being done," he says.

Marine Major General William Cato says, "We're fielding the best body armor and equipment available, we think, in the world today, and as we have the opportunity to upgrade the equipment, we do that."

And of course, renowned military affairs expert Michelle Malkin says the body armor situation is totally hunky dory, so I guess that's the last word on that.

The Bomb That Keeps On Ticking

Ms. Malkin also quotes General Cato as saying, "There is nothing more important to the Marine Corps than protecting Marines."

That's big pill to swallow in light of an article filed last May by Christian Lowe of the Army Times.

Lowe reported that in July of 2004…

The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that government experts urged the Corps to reject after tests revealed critical, life-threatening flaws in the vests.

In all, the Marine Corps accepted about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. that failed government tests due to “multiple complete penetrations” of 9mm pistol rounds, failing scores on other ballistic or quality-assurance tests, or a combination of the two.

The ballistics expert who initially rejected the vests was James MacKiewicz, who works at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. MacKiewicz has 18 years of experience with ballistics and armor systems.

The Defense Contract Management Agency concurred with Mackiewicz's assessment and recommended the vests be rejected.

But the Marine Corps program manager in charge of acquiring and fielding the vests overrode those recommendations. Lieutanant Colonel Gabriel Patricio and Sandra Hatfield, Point Blank's chief operating officer. Over the course of ten months, Patricio waived and accepted over 20 lots of tactical vests that had not passed government tests.

Patricio did not do this solely on his own authority. The waivers were approved by none other that Major General William Cato. In a written memo, he said…

I concurred with the program manager’s decision to waive the 11 lots in order to rapidly replace the PASGT flaks with a superior, advanced body-armor system. Due to the massive deployment associated with [Operation Iraqi Freedom], this was considered to be an urgent need, and was deemed to be in the best interest of deployed Marines at that time.

One might be tempted to forgive Patricio and Cato for sending Marines rejected modern body armor to replace Vietnam era flak jackets as a choice of the lesser of two evils. However, any sympathy they may warrant has to be tempered with the fact that field commanders were not informed about the flaws in the Interceptor vests.

The Marine Corps eventually recalled over 5,000 of the flawed vests, but only under pressure of imminent publication of an eight-month investigation on the story by the Marine Corps Times.

As author Lowe describes at length, the history of acquisition horseplay and finger pointing between Point Blank and the government goes back to 2003, when ballistics inspector MacKiewicz first drafted memos warning of a problem with the Point Blank's vests. But questions about Point Blank's product had arisen elsewhere a year earlier.

Trevor Aaronsen of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reveals that in 2002, 900 out of 1,000 Point Blank vests sold to the New York Police Department were found to be defective by New York Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau.

But even more alarming, in Lowe's view, were the indications that the company knew it was shipping defective products.

Next: The War Profits of Point Blank CEO David H. Brooks


Posted by: wkmaier at January 17, 2006 03:53 PM

Ah yes, THAT David Brooks... loves his little girl.

Posted by: Nins at January 17, 2006 10:53 PM

THAT David Brooks... Only 10 mil $US for his daughter's bash. He may have in sacrifice for the war effort cut the celebration back from the original 25 mil$US. Grrrrrrrrr.

But since when do field commanders decide how SGLI are distributed? Either this one should have been more careful about saying something he doesn't have a lot of control over or he's trying to deal with a situation in which it's tough when some troops have protective gear that others don't. Uniformity, fairness... I don't know how to do this right. And King Solomon isn't round here either. Murtha's right, there are far too few boots on the ground and the readiness rates are just sickening.

Posted by: Nina at January 17, 2006 10:54 PM

I sent a post from 'Nins' but it's Nina. I should be responsible for my words and typos. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Jeff Huber at January 18, 2006 11:23 AM

Yep, loves her a whole lot.

Posted by: wkmaier at January 18, 2006 07:58 PM

Everyone... deep breath. OK. Get that blood pressure down. We need that rage focused. Heck, I'm one to talk! :-)

Posted by: Gordon at January 20, 2006 05:18 PM

The Marine Corps cares most about the mission. They will, however, try to retrieve your body.

Posted by: Dennis Tedder at April 16, 2006 09:55 PM

Seems to me that CATO went to war with what we had. When have we not? We ran into IADs and adjusted accordingly. And I'm so far to the right I have my underwear starched, but Michelle Malkin needs to take a sedative and a few other things. Besides...what nationality is Malkin? Something other'n USA unless she forgot to wear that sunscreen. Ahem. Malkin & her closet left-wing newsies need to volunteer a few years before they're allowed to have an opinon. Other than that, writing is fine as long as you write our side. Otherwise...squelch the press.

Posted by: Lurch at April 16, 2006 10:56 PM

Hi, Dennis. Thanks for commenting. What we have is crappy armor, although for sure it's better than the flak jackets supplied to us in Nam.

I don't like to say too much about Malkin for various reasons, one of them being I find her antics juvenile and unbecoming.

I understand she is an American citizen. One of those lucky enough to have been born in the US of an alien mother, and therefore granted citizenship by law. That, of course, allowed her parents to apply for and receive American citizenship. Isn't it ironic that she now fulminates against Mexicans doing the same thing? The illogic of right wing hypocrisy, once again. Skin tone really doesn't mean much to judge citizenship, by the way. Just take a walk along 125th in Harlem, or along Melrose Blbd in Los Angeles on a Sunday and you'll see what I mean. Myself, I'm second generation American. All my antecedants came from norther Europe. I have a cousin, descended from my paternal grandfather, who is as dark as a Turk, with heavy moustache and curly hair to boot.

One of the nice things about being an American is that we (still) have the right to our own opinions and to express them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "writing for our side."

Posted by: Dennis Tedder at July 2, 2006 12:49 PM

Hi, Lurch:

I meant "writing for our side" means the right- to far-right side. I've known Bill Cato since September 1973 and in today's parlance, he was chosen to go to Congress, pull his pants down and take one for the Corps which he did with glee.

Moreover, I am fully up-to-speed on armour, tank armour/anti-armour, and have dealings with certain Marine Corps think tanks one of which includes General Al Gray (former commandant) whom I also personally know.

But, you did make my point. Although you used the crappy, it is, nonetheless, as you say, better than 'Nam. As you may know, it has underarm protection and is far lighter but much stronger.

At the end of the day, Marines (and others) die. That's what it's all about. These ragheads are in this game for eternity and we (US) do not have the guts to stick it out. Within three months of Afghanistan, "we" had already begun clamoring, "when can we bring our boys home."

In light of that, boys went to war in WWII, love ya, write when I can, and see you when I see you. No daily emails, phone calls to momma...you get the gist.

Thanks for your input, however.

Posted by: Lurch at July 2, 2006 01:52 PM

Dennis, I don't write for the "right to far right side" because I cannot agree intellectually or emotionally with the Facsism presently being installed in this country.

I aapproved your comment even though I thoroughly disagree with several of the points you make. The armor our troops are getting is crappy. The Point Blank armor contract was awarded to a deep pockets Republican donor. Need I say more or do I have to define the term "crony" for you?

If the Marine Corps has "think tanks" I'd certainly like to know about it. As far as I know they're supposed to be in the land-buying business. Maybe you're thinking of the Potomiac Institute.

And, no, you're wrong again. At the end of day Marines and others win. Dying is an unfortunate cost of business. Any military organization that sees glory in dying probably has the life expectancy of the 1st Special Attack Squadron of the Japanese Navy.

Americans might have been clamoring to bring troops home within three months of starting in Afghanistan. If they did, that would be because CENTCOM were very busy telling us how the Taliban had been smashed, overrun, and defeated as a threat. Judging by the latest news from Afghanistan, that victory announcement might have been a bit premature, eh?

I dunno, I'm just a silly ole broke down NCO, but maybe - just a crazy idea, you know? - but maybe if we spent more time on soldiering and less time on propagandizing we might be a bit more successful.

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