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Letter to The Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense


Location: Washington, DC

Letter to The Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense

After I.G. Investigation on Body Armor, Kerry Asks Pentagon for Oversight

Sen. John Kerry today wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, asking that the Department of Defense (DoD) implement Inspector General (IG) recommendations, after their investigation revealed that troops are wearing untested, possibly faulty body armor. This latest example of negligence follows reports that troops may be relying on sub-standard helmets and washing with unsafe water. Asserting that a pattern of negligence has emerged when it comes to inspecting troops' equipment and supplies, Kerry questioned how the Defense Department plans to follow-through with the IG's recommendations to correct this latest lapse.

"Whether it's uninspected body armor, sub-standard helmets, or unmonitored water, too often the Pentagon has outsourced our troops' safety to defense contractors," said Kerry. "We learned this week that the DoD allowed contractors to exceed budgets by billions of taxpayer dollars, to miss deadlines by years on end, and now, a pattern of little to no contractor oversight is emerging. The lack of accountability is stunning. Americans who care about our troops deserve to know how the Pentagon will guarantee safe, reliable equipment and supplies."

The text of Kerry's letter is below:

April 4, 2008

The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to raise serious questions about the recent findings with respect to testing done on body armor before it is deemed reliable for use by American troops.

As you know, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) — responsible for investigating internal abuses and deficiencies — found in a report issued March 31, 2008 that our men and women in combat may be relying on inadequate body armor. According to the IG's report, U.S. Army officials did not require initial quality control testing (First Article Testing) for approximately $3 billion in body armor contracts. As a result, DoD apparently does not know whether 13 out of 28 contracts for body armor awarded between January 2004 and December 2006 meet required standards. This is simply unacceptable, and there are a number of outstanding questions that still need to be answered.

I respectfully request that you take this opportunity to clarify exactly what DoD has done to ensure that body armor currently in use meets existing DoD requirements. I also ask that you promptly provide a full accounting of how DoD intends to respond to the IG's recommendations, and, in particular, the suggested inclusion of early testing instructions, as appropriate, in both DoD and non-DoD contracts.

As you know, the Bush Administration has hardly been supportive of full and adequate congressional oversight of wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as evidenced by the recent presidential signing statement on this subject. This most recent failure to conduct proper testing of body armor is yet another example of the very urgent need for Congress to ensure adequate oversight, accountability, and transparency of wartime contracting. The American people deserve nothing less, especially when the safety of our troops is in question.

Thank you for your serious and timely consideration of this request. I look forward to hearing from you on this critical matter.


John Kerry

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