Rep. Courtney Leads Bipartisan Effort for Independent GAO Study into Body Armor Protection for U.S. Troops
Congressman Joe Courtney had an opportunity to address the apparent discrepancies between claims by the United States Army and the manufacturers of Dragonskin Body Armor today during a hearing called by House Armed Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton to examine concerns over the adequacy of body armor currently provided to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congressman Joe Courtney in May was one of the first in the House of Representatives to call for an independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study so that military families and soldiers can have confidence that they are being provided with the best equipment possible.
Congressman Courtney will reiterate his call for an independent GAO study by spearheading a bipartisan letter to the oversight agency to be mailed on Thursday that currently includes nearly forty Members of Congress.
"There is only one way to conclude which type of body armor better protects our men and women on the front lines. An independent agency must perform the test," stated Congressman Joe Courtney. "I am proud to lead the call for a GAO study because we must be confident that the equipment provided to our troops is the best available. We owe that to our troops on the front lines."
Recently a Dateline NBC report stated that after an independent study, Dragonskin Body Armor outperformed the standard issue Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) currently distributed to combat troops. The Department of Defense refutes the findings and stands by its own findings that the IBA is a more safe and effective system than Dragonskin.
The letter with current cosigners is below:
June 7, 2007
Dear Mr. Walker:
We are writing to request that the Government Accountability Office conduct an investigation that would reassess body armor systems currently being issued by all the military services and the Special Operations Command for effectiveness and reliability against the threats facing our troops in combat.
Recent media reports suggest that alternative body armor systems, such as the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor, may offer better protection than the Interceptor Body Armor currently issued to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Army maintains that Dragon Skin failed military testing procedures, from the limited testing aired on national television over the weekend the Dragon Skin armor appears to have performed much better than the Army has previously indicated.
Ongoing assertions that potentially superior body armor is available, but not provided, to our troops are extremely troubling. Given the serious nature of these concerns, we believe an independent assessment is necessary to fully evaluate these claims. To this end, we respectfully request that the Government Accountability Office reassess the various body armor systems currently being employed by all branches of the armed forces and the Special Operations Command for effectiveness and reliability against the threats facing our troops in combat. The scope of this review should include:
* a comparison and testing of the Interceptor Body Armor system with other commercially available products, including the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor system, to determine if our troops are currently issued the best available body armor system;
* a full description and evaluation of current military testing processes as they relate to body armor to determine if the present procedures fairly and adequately test for conditions faced by today's war fighter, including: environmental factors, weight, mobility, resistance to weapons currently found in the field, and other relevant factors;
* a review of compliance and applicability of current body armor and "Safety-of-Use" policies prohibiting certain commercial body armor system across the conventional forces and special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your prompt response.
Current cosigners: Rep. Courtney, Rep. Larson, Rep. DeLauro, Rep. Loebsack, Rep. Hall (NY), Rep. Cummings, Rep. Murphy (CT), Rep. Shea-Porter, Rep. Langevin, Rep. Pomeroy, Rep. McCollum, Rep. Jackson-Lee, Rep. Sires, Rep. Hare, Rep. McDermott, Rep. Nunes, Rep. Welch, Rep. Platts, Rep. Holt, Rep. Brown (FL), Rep. Maloney, Rep. Shays, Rep. Grijalva, Rep. Schiff, Rep. Larsen, Rep. Mahoney, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Bordallo, Rep. Berman, Rep. Woolsey, Rep. Higgins, and Rep. Hirono, Rep. Gillibrand, Rep. Johnson (GA)