01/18/2006: Hobson's Choice?
Over at Main and Central, Jeff brings to our attention a currently seething conflict regarding purchases of body armor for the troops in Iraq. Apparently, the Army is putting troops who buy their own body armor in a bit of a dilemma:
Two deploying soldiers and a concerned mother reported Friday afternoon that the U.S. Army appears to be singling out soldiers who have purchased Pinnacle's Dragon Skin Body Armor for special treatment. The soldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies. The soldiers were ordered to leave their privately purchased body armor at home or face the possibility of both losing their life insurance benefit and facing disciplinary action. [Quoting Nathaniel Helms at Soldiers for the Truth]If you're having a bit of a problem seeing what exactly the dilemma is, you need to know that there appears to be some evidence indicating that the Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor is a bit more effective in keeping its wearer healthy than the government issue body armor [passage below from Jeff at Main and Central]:
On Saturday, another soldier affected by the ban told Helms that U.S. Special Operations Command had issued a directive banning "all" commercially available armor.So the choice becomes: use your privately purchased armor, and lose your death benefits while increasing your chances that your heirs won't need them, or use the GI armor, and, keep your death benefits, and increase the chances that your heirs will need to make that claim.The soldier reiterated Friday's reports that any soldier who refused to comply with the order and was subsequently killed in action "could" be denied the $400,000 death benefit provided by their SGLI life insurance policy as well as face disciplinary action.At issue is the inferiority of standard military issue Interceptor OTV vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor to Dragon Skin and other commercially available body armor.Last week DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that determined that 80% of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Interceptor OTV body armor they were wearing was more effective. The Army has declined to comment on the report because doing so could aid the enemy, an Army spokesman has repeatedly said.[emphasis added by Jeff --LRC]
Frankly, I'm glad that I don't have to make that choice. But at least it's big of the Army to maximize the troops' chances of getting to use their death benefits. [Note: the preceding was a test of your brain's firmware's ability correctly to parse the HTML "sarcasm" tag.]
And the reason that the Army is so insistent on providing the inferior armor? One of the Army's promoters of the privately procured alternative nails it down nicely:
It's Lt. Col. Charles' (Ret.) opinion that the reason the U.S. Army has chosen to outfit U.S. troops with Interceptor body armor over Pinnacle Armor SOV flexible body armor/Dragon Skin is that the U.S. Army suffers from "not invented here" syndrome. "The basic reason, as hard as this may be for your audience to understand, is not invented here: Bureaucratic turf protection because the Army people that were charged with providing this ten, fifteen years ago had a program -- it produced something beginning in 1998 I believe, 1999. But it wasn't this - and they didn't want to use this because they did not claim invention of it."Quite credible; people familiar with military procurement are aware that the equipment and armaments developed in-house possess a "mind-share" in the consciousness of those buying the equipment that the stuff not developed in-house lacks.
It's a pity, however, that this has to become literally a matter of life and death.
Thanks to Bryan at Why Now? for the pointer to the Defense Review piece.
Len on 01.18.06 @ 08:13 AM CST