Throwing Good Money After Bad?



The Army has awarded a huge contract for its new improved outer tactical vest body armor to Specialty Defense Systems a division of the Armor Holdings conglomerate and Point Blank Body Armor.

The Specialty Defense order calls for 155,000 vests - with the Point Blank order totaling about 75,000 vests, the Army said.

Army officials added that the first unit to receive the new and improved vests will be the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Division with a fielding goal for all troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weve already taken a pretty good look at the new Army vest which basically takes advantage of technical improvements on configuration, coverage, fit and weight since the first Interceptor vest was fielded. It was a move long in coming, and some argue a smarter choice than the Marine Corps Modular Tactical Vest.

What many might view as disturbing, however, is the Armys continued use of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Point Blank to manufacture its life-saving vests.

It is inarguable that PBBA has been embroiled in deep controversy over the past two years. Expanding sharply from a small armor company that primarily supplied law enforcement personnel, the companys founder raised shareholder worries by throwing money around like it was growing on trees. A sharp drop in the stocks price built on investor frustrations and called into question the companys management.

Despite a forceful defense of its manufacturing and quality control practices, the Marine Corps was compelled to recall thousands of its vests from the field due to the rejection of manufactured lots that werent up to snuff. More recalls of Point Blank Interceptor vests followed later in 2005.

Then, the companys COO, Sandra Hatfield, was indicted for inflating profit reports in 2006, along with the chief financial officer, Dawn Schlegel.

Then, former Army Forces Command chief, Lt. Gen. Larry Ellis, stepped in to save the company, leading PBBA to the new Army contract.

The Army would not provide price information for the new IOTV, but a news report shows Point Blank garnered a $53 million for their 75,000 IOTV order.

Maybe PBBA has truly shaped up its act and can be trusted with millions of taxpayer dollars and with the lives of Soldiers who will be wearing the IOTV. But its track record of alleged financial improprieties and vest recalls should cause any government agency pause especially as the escalating war over Dragon Skin and the Armys Interceptor vest focuses more attention on the body armor debate.

-- Christian

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