Procurement: May 9, 2005

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In 2004, the U.S. Armys Soldier Systems Center told the U.S. Marine Corps that 10,000 of the protective vests the marines were buying had failed quality control tests. The marines ran their own tests, using civilian testing organizations, and found the vests did meet the standard. The tests for the vests are not all absolute, because there is such a wide variety of shell and bomb fragments that can hit the vest. Tests try to determine of the vests being examined meet the probability standards for keeping pistol bullets and fragments out. Thus it is possible for there to be legitimate disputes over which tests are valid.


In the rush to supply all the troops in Iraq with protective vests in 2003, more manufacturers were sought to manufacture protective vests, and existing manufacturers greatly increased production. There was understandable concern that this rush might produce substandard vests. During the period (March 2004 and January 2005) that the disputed protective vests were being used in Iraq, 692 Marines wounded. Eight were struck on their protective vest. Only two vests were penetrated, one by a fragment from an RPG rocket, and another by a fragment from a roadside bomb. Its not known if these vests were among those in dispute, or if the penetrations were within the specifications of the vests. The Interceptor Vests are not guaranteed to stop all fragments, but are supposed to stop those of a certain size and velocity. Apparently there were no deaths from defective vests, and it will take a while to determine if the contested vests were, indeed, defective. The issue became public after the independent publication, the Marine Corps Times, investigated the matter and published a story. In response to the article, the marines are trying to recall half the vests in question. However, there are problems identifying those vests, and all of them may not be identified.


 


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