Friday, June 08, 2007

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Body Armor

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Body Armor

On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing relating to Pinnacle Dragon Skin, a form of body armor that was the subject of a recent investigative report by NBC. Murray Neal, President of Pinnacle Armor, appeared with Phillip Coyle, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, who observed the testing conducted by NBC, to discuss their claim that Dragon Skin is a superior product to the Interceptor body armor that is currently utilized by U.S. service members in combat.

In his opening statement, Mr. Neal made reference to a history of “anti-Dragon Skin misinformation” coming from the Department of Defense and members of the committee, in turn, accused Mr. Neal of impugning the integrity of the Army, badmouthing Armed Services committee staff, alarming service members and their families, and hyping his company’s product. “Everywhere you go,” said Representative Duncan Hunter, “you leave the implication that everybody is the devil.” While Mr. Neal said it was not his intention to do so, he could not provide an answer as to why the Department of Defense would intentionally seek to mislead the public and the Armed Forces on the issue of Dragon Skin body armor.

Members of the committee also heard testimony from Pentagon officials, who noted discrepancies in the tests performed by NBC. Lt. General Ross Thompson III, Deputy Director of the Army Acquisition Corps, noted that, “body armor that was provided for the NBC test was not from one of the six certified and tested producers of the body armor that is used by the military.” General Brown, commander of the Soldier Systems Center in Natick Massachusetts, stated that, “in Honorable Coyle's own testimony, he said they were using the 7.62-by-54 round, which is not the test round. The 7.62-by-63 APM two round is the test round which we specifically selected to put in a wider margin of safety into the plates.”

Mr. Douglas Thomas, executive director for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations also informed the committee that Pinnacle Armor is currently the subject of a criminal investigation. The Air Force is currently investigating Pinnacle’s claim that its Dragon Skin body armor had been certified by the National Institute of Justice in April 2006. According to a letter read by Chairman Skelton, this certification did not actually occur until December 2006. Pentagon officials noted the seriousness of such a fraudulent claim. “It is my hope,” said Lt. General Thompson, “that the investigation results in the appropriate consequences.''

Despite an admission by Mr. Coyle that the armor was “not ready for prime time”, Rep. Hunter said that the technology “may be of some value” and urged further comparison testing. He was ready, he said, to get “an M-14 and some 7.62 stuff to the Marine Corps lab and try to get some shots off in the next week or so.”

For additional information on military and Congress: NGAUS

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