That liberal mouthpiece known as the Air Force Times reports that the Marine Corps overrode the objections of its own inspectors and purchased 10,000 units of faulty body armor that won’t stop a 9mm bullet, distributing the vests to Our Troops! in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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.
“Since these are lifesaving pieces of equipment and are being used in support of the Iraq war, I urge immediate action since this technical office has little confidence in the performance of the items to provide the contracted levels of protection as defined in the performance specification,” wrote ballistics expert James MacKiewicz in a memorandum rejecting two lots of vests on July 19, 2004.
A second government agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency, backed Natick’s conclusion and also recommended against the waivers.
“Anything less than full compliance for a safety item such as the [Interceptor body armor] is unacceptable,” DCMA wrote in a 2004 memorandum recommending that the Corps reject the vests.
But according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with officials at Natick, the Marine Corps and Point Blank, the service rejected that advice. Instead, the Marine program manager responsible for fielding the vests, Lt. Col. Gabriel Patricio, and Point Blank’s chief operating officer, Sandra Hatfield signed waivers that allowed the Corps to buy and distribute vests that failed to meet the Corps’ minimum standards and specifications.
Faced with the imminent publication of this story, the result of an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps on May 4 issued a Corpswide message recalling 5,277 Interceptor vests from 11 lots that failed government ballistic performance tests — slightly more than half the total vests issued to Marines from questionable lots.
The Corps has not said what it intends to do with the more than 4,000 other vests the testers urged to be rejected that are now being worn by Marines. Nor has it said what it will do with the remaining 10,000 that it accepted over the objections of the test labs but which haven’t been fielded.
The Corps faces serious challenges in even locating the vests it plans to pull back. Because lot numbers, serial numbers and other manufacturing data are handwritten on body armor labels, the writing is sometimes smeared, faded or otherwise illegible.