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Testimony: 

Before the Committee on Armed Services, 

House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST: 

Wednesday, June 6, 2007: 

Defense Logistics: 

Army and Marine Corps' Body Armor Requirements, Controls, and Other 
Issues: 

Statement of William M. Solis, Director: 
Defense Capabilities and Management Issues: 

GAO-07-911T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-911T, a testimony before the Committee on Armed 
Services, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

In recent years, a number of reports and newspaper articles have cited 
concerns regarding the level of protection and the available amounts of 
body armor to protect deployed service members. As part of GAOís 
efforts to monitor the Department of Defenseís (DOD) and the servicesí 
action to protect ground forces, GAO reviewed the Army and Marine 
Corpsís actions to address these concerns. On April 26, 2007, GAO 
issued a report regarding the Army and the Marine Corpsís individual 
body armor systems. Todayís testimony summarizes the reportís findings 
regarding the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps (1) have met 
the theater requirements for body armor, (2) have the controls in place 
to assure that the manufacturing and fielding of body armor meet 
requirements, and (3) have shared information regarding their efforts 
on body armor ballistic requirements and testing. The report also 
included additional information concerning whether contractors or non-
DOD civilians obtain body armor in the same way as U.S. forces and DOD 
civilians given the number of contractors and non-DOD civilians in 
CENTCOMís area of operation. GAO did not make recommendations in the 
report. DOD officials did not provide written comments on the report 
but technical comments were incorporated as appropriate. 

What GAO Found: 

Army and Marine Corps body armor currently meets theater ballistic 
requirements and the required amount needed for personnel in theater, 
including the amounts needed for the surge of troops into Iraq. The 
Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) consists of an outer tactical vest with 
ballistic inserts or plates that cover the front, back, and sides. The 
vest and inserts currently meet the theater ballistic requirements. The 
vest provides protection from 9mm rounds, while the inserts provide 
protection against 7.62mm armor-piercing rounds. CENTCOM requires that 
all U.S. military forces and all DOD civilians in the area of 
operations receive the body armor system. Currently, service members 
receive all service-specific standard components of the body armor 
system prior to deploying. The Army and the Marine Corps provide the 
DOD civilians with components of the armor system. 

The Army and Marine Corps have controls in place during manufacturing 
and after fielding to assure that body armor meets requirements. Both 
services conduct quality and ballistic testing prior to fielding, and 
lots (a grouping of items varying in number) are rejected if the 
standards are not met. They also conduct formal testing on every lot of 
body armor (vests and protective inserts) prior to acceptance and 
issuance to troops. During production, which is done at several sites, 
the lots of body armor are sent to a National Institute of Justice-
certified laboratory for ballistic testing and to the Defense Contract 
Management Agency for quality testing (size, weight, stitching) prior 
to issuance to troops. Although not required to do so, after the 
systems have been used in the field, the Army does limited ballistic 
and environmental testing to determine future improvements. 

The Army and Marine Corps share information regarding ballistic 
requirements and testing although they are not required to do so. Title 
10 of the U.S. Code allows each service to have separate programs, 
according to Army and Marine Corps officials. Nevertheless, the 
services are sharing information regarding ongoing research and 
development for the next generation of body armor. 

DOD Instruction 3020.41 allows DOD to provide body armor to contractors 
and non-DOD civilians where permitted by applicable DOD instructions 
and military department regulations and where specified under the terms 
of the contract. It is CENTCOMís position that body armor will be 
provided to contractors if it is part of the terms and conditions of 
the contract. However, the officials indicated that commanders, at 
their discretion, can provide body armor to any personnel within their 
area of operation. 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-911T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact William M.Solis at (202) 
512-8365 or solisw@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our findings regarding Army 
and Marine Corps's individual body armor systems. As you know, since 
combat operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been 
subjected to frequent and deadly attacks from insurgents using various 
weapons such as improvised explosive devices (IED), mortars, rocket 
launchers, and increasingly lethal ballistic threats. Since 2003, to 
provide protection from ballistic threats, U.S. Central Command 
(CENTCOM), which is responsible for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan 
and other areas, has required service members and Department of Defense 
(DOD) civilians in its area of operations to be issued the Interceptor 
Body Armor (IBA) system.[Footnote 1] 

Congress has expressed strong interest in the quality of our ground 
force's body armor protection, especially since combat operations began 
in Iraq and Afghanistan and news reports citing concerns regarding body 
armor shortages and quality issues. In response to these concerns, we 
reviewed the Army and Marine Corps's actions regarding individual body 
armor systems, and on April 26, 2007, issued a report.[Footnote 2] My 
testimony today summarizes the findings in this report. Specifically, I 
will discuss the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps (1) have met 
the theater requirements for body armor, (2) have the controls in place 
to assure that the manufacturing and fielding of body armor meet 
requirements, and (3) have shared information regarding their efforts 
on body armor ballistic requirements and testing. I will also include 
additional information concerning whether contractors or non-DOD 
civilians obtain body armor in the same way as U.S. forces and DOD 
civilians given the number of contractors and non-DOD civilians in 
CENTCOM's area of operation. 

To assess these issues we focused on Army and Marine Corps body armor 
systems for U.S. service members and DOD and non-DOD civilian personnel 
deployed within CENTCOM's area of operations, including Iraq and 
Afghanistan. To determine whether the Army and Marine Corps are meeting 
the theater ballistic and inventory requirements for body armor, we 
reviewed documentation and interviewed officials from key DOD, Army, 
and Marine Corps organizations, such as the Office of the Under 
Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, the 
Defense Logistics Agency, and CENTCOM, which are responsible for 
managing theater ballistic and inventory requirements. We analyzed the 
ballistic requirements and compared these requirements to the body 
armor systems provided to personnel. Moreover, we concentrated on the 
body armor system currently being used in CENTCOM's area of operation. 
We also obtained and reviewed the amount of body armor systems 
available worldwide for the Army and Marine Corps to determine if the 
available amount met the quantity needed in theater. We analyzed the 
distribution practices to assure that personnel were receiving body 
armor systems that met ballistic theater requirements and that these 
systems were available for those preparing to deploy. We did not 
independently verify that deployed personnel wore the body armor 
systems as recommended by their commanders. 

To assess the extent to which the services have controls in place 
during manufacturing and after fielding to assure that body armor meets 
requirements, we reviewed documentation and discussed the services' 
ballistic test processes and procedures with their program and 
technical officials. We analyzed these test processes and procedures to 
determine if controls are in place that assure body armor meets 
ballistic requirements during manufacturing and after fielding. Our 
analysis included ballistic test methods for the tactical vests and the 
protective plate inserts; however, we did not independently verify test 
results. In addition, we reviewed the services' past experiences where 
the services concluded that fielded body armor systems failed to meet 
contract specifications and ballistic testing requirements. We analyzed 
the services' actions to determine if their actions corrected the 
failures. We also reviewed documentation and interviewed Army and 
Marine Corps body armor program officials who provided manufacturer 
production quality and ballistic testing lot failures for early 2006 
through early 2007. 

To identify the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps share 
information regarding their efforts on body armor ballistic 
requirements and testing, we analyzed the services' body armor programs 
and policies and discussed with service officials whether there is a 
requirement to share information between the services regarding their 
separate programs. We also discussed with officials and reviewed 
documentation to determine whether the services do share information 
and if shared, what specific actions they take. To determine whether 
contractors or non-DOD civilians obtain body armor in the same way as 
U.S. forces and DOD civilians in CENTCOM's area of operations, we 
obtained and analyzed DOD and CENTCOM policy regarding personal 
protection for contractors and non-DOD civilians. We also interviewed 
Army, Marine Corps, and CENTCOM officials on this issue. 

We did not make recommendations in our report. DOD officials did not 
provide written comments on the report but technical comments were 
incorporated as appropriate. We conducted our review from November 2006 
to March 2007 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards.[Footnote 3] 

Summary: 

The Army and Marine Corps have taken several actions to meet theater 
requirements, assure testing, and share information on body armor. 
Contractors and non-DOD civilians receive body armor if this provision 
is included in a negotiated contract. Specifically, we reported that 
the Army and Marine Corps: 

* are currently meeting theater ballistic requirements and the required 
amount needed for personnel in theater, including the amounts needed 
for the surge of troops into Iraq; 

* have controls in place during manufacturing and after fielding to 
assure that body armor meets requirements; and: 

* share information regarding ballistic requirements and testing, and 
the development of future body armor systems, although they are not 
required to do so. 

Regarding contractors or non-DOD civilians, we found that DOD 
Instruction 3020.41 allows DOD to provide body armor to contractors 
where permitted by applicable DOD instructions and military department 
regulations and where specified under the terms of the contract. 
CENTCOM's position is that body armor will be provided to contractors 
if it is part of a negotiated contract. 

Background: 

Used by all U.S. military service members and DOD civilians in the area 
of operations, the IBA consists of an outer tactical vest with 
ballistic inserts or plates that cover the front, back, and sides. As 
the ballistic threat has evolved, ballistic requirements have also 
changed. The vest currently provides protection from 9mm rounds, while 
the inserts provide protection against 7.62mm armor-piercing rounds. 
Additional protection can also be provided for the shoulder, throat, 
and groin areas. Figure 1 details the body armor components. 

Figure 1: Interceptor Body Armor System: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: PEO soldier. 

Note: The figure depicts the Army Basic System. The Marine Corps Basic 
System excludes the deltoid protector. 

[End of figure] 

Concerns regarding the level of protection and amount of IBA needed to 
protect U.S. forces have been raised in recent years, prompted by a 
number of reports, newspaper articles, and recalls of issued body armor 
by both the Army and the Marine Corps. In May 2005, the Marine Corps 
recalled fielded body armor because it concluded that the body armor 
failed to meet contract specifications, and in November 2005, the Army 
and Marine Corps recalled 14 lots of body armor that failed original 
ballistic testing.[Footnote 4] Additionally, in April 2005,[Footnote 5] 
we reported on shortages of critical force protection items, including 
individual body armor. Specifically, we found that the shortages in 
body armor were due to material shortages, production limitations, and 
in-theater distribution problems. In the report, we did not make 
specific recommendations regarding body armor, but we did make several 
recommendations to improve the effectiveness of DOD's supply system in 
supporting deployed forces for contingencies. DOD agreed with the 
intent of the recommendations and cited actions it had or was taking to 
eliminate supply chain deficiencies. 

Army and Marine Corps Body Army Meets Current Theater Requirements: 

Army and Marine Corps body armor currently meets theater ballistic 
requirements and the required amount needed for personnel in theater, 
including the amounts needed for the surge of troops into Iraq. Used by 
all U.S. military service members and DOD civilians in the area of 
operations, the IBA consists of an outer tactical vest with ballistic 
inserts or plates that cover the front, back, and sides. The vest and 
inserts currently meet the theater ballistic requirements. The vest 
provides protection from 9mm rounds, while the inserts provide 
protection against 7.62mm armor-piercing rounds. Additional protection 
can also be provided for the shoulder, throat, and groin areas. The 
Army and Marine Corps body armor meets the required amounts needed for 
personnel in theater as well. Table 1 details Army and Marine Corps 
theater requirements and worldwide inventory quantities of the body 
armor as of February 2007. 

Table 1: Army and Marine Corps Body Armor Requirement as of February 
2007: 

Body Armor Systems: Outer tactical vest; 
Army: Amount needed in theater: 154,000; 
Army: Current worldwide available inventory: 991,580; 
Marine Corps: Amount needed in theater: 23,000; 
Marine Corps: Current worldwide available inventory: 198,088. 

Body Armor Systems: Enhanced small arms inserts; 
Army: Amount needed in theater: 154,000; 
Army: Current worldwide available inventory: 402,369; 
Marine Corps: Amount needed in theater: 23,000; 
Marine Corps: Current worldwide available inventory: 56,970. 

Body Armor Systems: Side protection; 
Army: Amount needed in theater: 154,000; 
Army: Current worldwide available inventory: 244,192; 
Marine Corps: Amount needed in theater: 23,000; 
Marine Corps: Current worldwide available inventory: 50,500. 

Body Armor Systems: Shoulder protection; 
Army: Amount needed in theater: 154,000; 
Army: Current worldwide available inventory: 243,229; 
Marine Corps: Amount needed in theater: 4,600; 
Marine Corps: Current worldwide available inventory: 4,600. 

Sources: Army Operations, PEO Soldier, and Marine Corps Systems 
Command. 

Note: Army and Marine Corps amounts include service personnel, DOD 
civilians, and contractors embedded with units. For the Army, shoulder 
protection is issued, but its use is optional. For the Marine Corps, 
shoulder protection is only issued to specialized personnel such as 
turret gunners. 

[End of table] 

CENTCOM requires that all U.S. military forces and all DOD civilians in 
the area of operations receive the body armor system. Currently, 
service members receive all service-specific standard components of the 
body armor system prior to deploying. For example, the Army issues the 
shoulder protection equipment to all its forces; however, Marine Corps 
personnel receive this equipment item in theater on an as-needed basis. 
The Army and the Marine Corps provide the DOD civilians with components 
of the armor system. However, the time frame for receipt of these items 
varies as some receive the body armor prior to deploying and others 
upon arrival in theater. Army unit commanders only reported one body 
armor issue in their December 2006 to February 2007 classified 
readiness reports. This one issue did not raise a significant concern 
regarding the body armor. Moreover, Marine Corps commanders' comments 
contained in the December 2006 and January 2007 readiness reports did 
not identify any body armor issues affecting their units' readiness. In 
December 2006 and January 2007, the Army, in its critical equipment 
list did not identify body armor as a critical equipment item affecting 
its unit readiness. 

Controls in Place to Assure Body Armor Meets Requirements: 

The Army and Marine Corps have controls in place during manufacturing 
and after fielding to assure that body armor meets requirements. Both 
services conduct quality and ballistic testing prior to fielding and 
lots are rejected if the standards are not met. They both also conduct 
formal testing on every lot of body armor (vests and protective 
inserts) prior to acceptance and issuance to troops. During production, 
which is done at several sites, the lots of body armor are sent to a 
National Institute of Justice-certified laboratory for ballistic 
testing and to the Defense Contract Management Agency for quality 
testing (size, weight, stitching) prior to issuance to troops. Figure 2 
illustrates the lot acceptance process. 

Figure 2: Lot Acceptance Process for Army and Marine Corps Body Armor: 

[See PDF for image] 

Sources: GAO and Art Explosion. 

[End of figure] 

Once approved, the body armor is issued to operating forces. Currently, 
both Army and Marine Corps personnel are issued body armor prior to 
deployment. The Army lot failure rate from January 2006 to January 2007 
was 3.32 percent for the enhanced small arms inserts, and there were no 
failures for the outer tactical vests.[Footnote 6] From February 2006 
to February 2007, the Marine Corps lot failure rate was 4.70 percent 
for the outer tactical vests. 

Although not required to do so, after the systems have been used in the 
field, the Army does limited ballistic testing of outer tactical vests 
and environmental testing of the outer tactical vests and the inserts. 
The Marine Corps visually inspects the vest and the plates for damage. 
According to Army officials, there has been no degradation of body 
armor based on ballistic and environmental testing results. 
Additionally, to determine future improvements, the Army and the Marine 
Corps body armor program offices monitor and assess the use of body 
armor in the field, including the review of medical reports from the 
Armed Forces Medical Examiner. For example, the Army and Marine Corps 
added side plates and throat protection based on body armor usage in 
the field. 

DOD has a standard methodology for ballistic testing of the hard body 
armor plates, but not for the soft body armor vest. Currently, DOD's 
Director, Operational Test and Evaluation Office is developing a 
standard methodology for ballistic testing of the soft body armor to 
eliminate discrepancies in testing methodologies. The new standard is 
expected to be issued sometime in 2007. 

Army and Marine Corps Share Body Armor Information: 

The Army and Marine Corps share information regarding ballistic 
requirements and testing, and the development of future body armor 
systems, although they are not required to do so. For example, in 
August 2006, the Marine Corps attended the Army's test of next 
generation body armor types at Fort Benning, Georgia. Similarly, the 
Army sent representatives to attend the Marine Corps's operational 
assessment of the new Modular Tactical Vest. DOD officials indicate 
that there is no requirement to share information. Title 10 of the U.S. 
Code allows each service to have separate programs, according to Army 
and Marine Corps officials. Nevertheless, the services are sharing 
information regarding ongoing research and development for the next 
generation of body armor. 

Contractors and Non-DOD Civilians Are Provided Body Armor Where 
Permitted: 

Regarding contractors or non-DOD civilians, DOD Instruction 3020.41 
allows DOD to provide body armor to contractors where permitted by 
applicable DOD instructions and military department regulations and 
where specified under the terms of the contract. It is CENTCOM's 
position that body armor will be provided to contractors if it is part 
of the terms and conditions of the contract. According to CENTCOM 
officials, non-DOD government civilians such as State Department 
civilians are expected to make their own arrangements to obtain this 
protection. However, the officials said that commanders, at their 
discretion, can provide body armor to any personnel within their area 
of operation. 

Conclusion: 

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Army and Marine Corps have taken 
several actions to address concerns, including assuring that the body 
armor systems meet the current theater requirements and that the 
amounts needed in theater are available. However, ballistic theater 
threats can change, and the services will need to continue to monitor 
and evaluate the theater ballistic threats in order to develop and 
provide individual body armor that can counter these changing threats. 
The services also will need to monitor and evaluate new technologies 
that may counter emerging theater ballistic threats. Moreover, they 
will need to continue to assure that controls are in place during 
manufacturing and after fielding to assure that existing and future 
body armor systems meet theater ballistic requirements. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to 
respond to any questions you or other Members of the Committee may 
have. 

Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For more information regarding this testimony, please call me at (202) 
512-8365. Individuals making key contributions to the testimony 
include: Grace Coleman, Alfonso Garcia, Lonnie McAllister, Lorelei St. 
James, and Leo Sullivan. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is one of DOD's five geographic 
combatant commands, whose area of responsibilities encompasses 27 
countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, in Southwest Asia, South and 
Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. Combatant commanders are 
responsible for overseeing U.S. military operations that take place in 
their geographic area. 

[2] GAO, Defense Logistics: Army and Marine Corps's Individual Body 
Armor System Issues, GAO-07-662R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 26, 2007). 

[3] More detailed information regarding our scope and methodology can 
be found in GAO, Defense Logistics: Army and Marine Corps's Individual 
Body Army System Issues, GAO-07-662R (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 26, 2007). 

[4] Army and Marine Corps officials told us they took actions to 
address the causes of lot failures. 

[5] GAO, Actions Needed to Improve the Availability of Critical Items 
during Current and Future Operations, GAO-05-275 (Washington, D.C.: 
Apr. 8, 2005). 

[6] The lot failure rate is calculated by dividing the total lots 
rejected by the total lots tested. A lot is a pallet or grouping of 
manufactured items varying in number per lot. For example, the Army's 
outer vest lots range from 1,100 to 1,200. A lot is manufactured within 
a specific period of time, at a common location. 

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