Report: Army's testing policy delaying body armor

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 21, 2009

The Army’s policy of testing body armor at its own laboratory instead of private facilities is causing delays in approval and is raising costs for manufacturers, The New York Times reported.

Army officials told the paper on Tuesday the decision to test armor at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland was made as part of an effort to upgrade safety standards. However, they said they might still hand some of the work back to private labs if delays became common.

According to the Times, manufacturers said the cost of the tests has in some cases tripled, and results that might be returned within 24 hours from a private lab are taking as long as a week to be returned from the Army lab.

Asia Fernandez, who owns Armacel Armor in Camarillo, Calif., told the Times that the Army charged more than $50,000 to perform safety tests on a new product. Testing at a private lab, she said, would have cost less than $15,000.

"It’s a little rocky right now," said David P. Reed, the president for North American operations at Ceradyne, the Army’s largest body-armor contractor. The Army lab, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, "is not really as responsive as we’d like to see," he told the paper. Reed added that so far the delays have not hurt troops because the Army had been stockpiling armor.

However, congressional aides told the paper they were looking into the accusations to ensure that there are no delays in getting critical gear to servicemembers in the field.

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