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Report says body armor is still subpar

A new study has found continuing problems with the quality of body armor used by the U.S. Army, prompting Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, who demanded the study, to ask Pentagon officials to do a better job in testing equipment that's supposed to protect the troops.

The study -- the fourth from the Defense Department inspector general on the body-armor controversy -- found that military officials only had "limited assurance" that seven contracts issued between 2004 and 2006 provided body armor that met specifications.

Those contracts produced five million supposedly protective body-armor inserts at a cost of $2.5 billion.

"This report confirms what we've known all along: that the Army's equipment review process did not live up to the high standards we must insist upon to protect our brave men and women in uniform," said Slaughter, D-Fairport.

Earlier reports, also done at Slaughter's insistence, found that some of the body armor purchased for soldiers in Iraq was not properly tested and that some of it may not offer adequate protection. The Army recalled 16,000 pieces of body armor in the wake of that second report, issued in 2009.

In response to the latest report, Slaughter wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and John McHugh, secretary of the Army, asking that they follow up on the recommendations of the reports and assess all the body armor that U.S. soldiers currently use to make sure it is adequate.

"The findings outlined by the Inspector General reveal a disturbing trend of negligence on the part of the Army in its oversight of critical testing procedures used to approve body-armor prototypes and award contracts for full production," she said in her letter.

Slaughter took up the issue as a cause after reading a 2006 New York Times report about the high rate at which U.S. troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com