The Spectacle Blog

All Hooah, no Dooah

By on 1.12.06 | 3:05PM

A little while ago, I participated in a conference call with MGen. Steven Speaks, director of force development for the Army and MGen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the army's acquisition chief. The subject was body armor for the troops. They set some facts straight.

First, we're not scrimping on spending for the armor. The body armor now being issued to troops costs about $2100 per soldier. Adding the planned shoulder/upper body armor costs about another $300 and the side armor -- now being produced -- adds $1000 more. Right now, there is more than enough armor to give every soldier in Iraq a set. The army alone has over 700,000 sets.

Second, there are a number of companies -- among them, according to Sorenson, one named Pinnacle -- that are making unsubstantiated claims about their products. Pinnacle, Sorenson said, is "all hooah and no dooah." The army has run preliminary tests on the Pinnacle armor plates and found that they are deficient in stopping power, ten pounds heavier than the current 31-pound armor set, and about 50% more expensive. Offers to buy Pinnacle armor sets have been answered by the company by statements that production versions of their "dragon skin" armor aren't available for testing.

Third, there are a lot of variables people on the Hill and in the media aren't thinking about. A 200-pound Marine can carry a lot more than a lady military policeman who weighs in at about 115. And he usually does: two weapons, water, rations, ammo and a lot of other mission-specific stuff. On the other hand, that Marine -- who may have to dive through doorways or windows, or point weapons up quickly -- may not want to be hampered by body armor that restricts movement. The obstacle to swinging an arm may create more risk than a lack of side armor plating.

Fourth, there is too much loose talk about what the body armor can and can’t do. The more people blather about the details, the more the enemy knows about how to defeat the armor.

In short, there's a lot being done to protect the troops. Not by Congress or the media. The effort is not stagnated, and is not penny-pinching, and -- most of all -- is not helped by Congressional grandstanding. (Note to Sen. Clinton: You might want to send your staffers back to their laptops to find something you might be right on. There’s gotta be something out there.)

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