Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered the recall of more than 16,000 sets of body armor following an audit that concluded the bullet-blocking plates in the vests failed testing and may not provide Soldiers with adequate protection.
The audit by the office of the Defense Department inspector general, not yet made public but obtained by The Associated Press, faults the Army for flawed testing procedures before awarding a contract for the armor.
In a letter dated Jan. 27 to Acting Inspector General Gordon Heddell, Geren said he did not agree that the plates failed the testing or that Soldiers were issued deficient gear. He said his opinion was backed by the Pentagon's top testing director.
Despite his insistence that the armor was not deficient, Geren said he was recalling the sets as a precaution.
Geren also said he's asked for a senior Pentagon official to resolve the disagreement between the Army and the inspector general's office.
"To ensure there can be no question regarding the effectiveness of every Soldier's body armor, I have today ordered that the plates at issue be identified and collected until such a time as the matter has been adjudicated by the deputy secretary of defense," he wrote.
Hundreds of thousands of body armor sets have been manufactured by nearly a dozen different companies over the past seven years. The vests are now standard gear for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The audit by the inspector general's office was the second requested by Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. She first asked the watchdog agency to look into the acquisition of the ballistic vests in 2006 after she read newspaper reports saying inadequate body armor was causing U.S. casualties.
[Editor's Note: The story goes on to say that three of eight plate designs in the latest Army buy failed FAT testing. The AP sleuthed around and found that the contract # for the plate order in question correlates to a purchase from Armor Works. I seem to remember that the Corps had some problems with substandard Armor Works plates back in '04-'05 timeframe, but I'm going to have to check back at my records to confirm that.]