By Roger Charles
August 30, 2007 (originally published on August 17, 2007)
Department of Justice (DOJ) has now joined the Army acquisition mafia
in attempting to deny America’s Grunts an honest chance for determining
just what is the "best-available" body armor. In a flagrant abuse of
discretionary authority, the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs has
intervened in an unprecedented way to promote and support the
obstructionism of the Army’s acquisition mafia — the common objective
being to prevent Pinnacle Armor’s Dragon Skin body armor from receiving
a full and fair technical assessment.
its subordinate office, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), OJP
has demonstrated an appalling willingness to sacrifice its heretofore
vaunted reputation for scientific objectivity for some hidden
bureaucratic agenda that places the lives of domestic law enforcement
officials in severe jeopardy.
as the Army acquisition mafia has proven its willingness, even
eagerness, to protect its current Interceptor body armor program at the
expense of lives and limbs of our great frontline troops, so has
OJP/NIJ now proven that…
is willing to do the same — sacrifice frontline law enforcement to
protect favored programs and the hundreds of millions of dollars
Military Industrial Complex has succeeded in obtaining DOJ/OJP/NIJ
collusion in an effort than can only cost more lives and limbs. While
favored contractors and their congressional enablers have ever reason
to smile at the Army’s successful recruitment of a new Executive Branch
co-conspirator, this blatant and heavy-handed intrusion by OJP/NIJ may
well prove a Pyrrhic victory.
details are enclosed. This is a complex matter at best, and the new
terms and acronyms will certainly be confusing. That’s the way large
government programs are, even honest ones. For those programs corrupted
by the special interests seeking to loot the public treasury, this
complexity is one of their favorite and time-honored factors in
forestalling scrutiny by the Congress, the media, and an informed,
is the way the MIC and its allies like it. If the average American
civilian can’t understand the jungle of strange terms, unique
procedures and clever spin from the government flacks, those on the
banks of the Potomac who profit from hidden corruption have little to
fear from being held to account.
urges every reader to persevere and read the entire sordid story
portrayed below, including the links to other items. Literally, the
lives of our frontline troops, and now, of our frontline law
enforcement officials depend on your understanding the game that is
afoot. Let your elected representatives know how important you think it
is that our defenders — abroad and at home — have the
"best-available" body armor, not the inferior versions favored on "K"
Street in Washington.
More Washington Corruption:
Another Attempt And A New Player — The Department Of Justice — Joins Efforts To Kill Dragon Skin
Army acquisition mafia’s desperate attempt to kill Pinnacle Armor’s
Dragon Skin has now gained a new ally, the Department of Justice’s
Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
On Friday, August 3, OJP issued a press release announcing that it had determined that Pinnacle Armor’s SOV 2000 (Level III) "bulletproof vest" was:
in compliance with the requirements of OJP’s National Institute of
Justice (NIJ) voluntary compliance testing program for bullet-resistant
body armor models that satisfy its requirements…
reviewed evidence provided by the body armor manufacturer and has
determined that the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that the
body armor will maintain its ballistic performance over its six-year
declared warranty period…
Note that the OJP/NIJ statement does not cite, nor claim, nor even hint at any demonstrated failure by Dragon Skin
to meet the ballistic performance criteria that NIJ has previously
certified only eight months ago that Dragon Skin (Level III) had met. Nor
is there a scintilla of hard evidence that Dragon Skin has failed to
"maintain its ballistic performance over its six-year declared warranty
No — all that the weasel wording ciphers in OJP are willing to put into their press release is that "the evidence is insufficient to demonstrate" that Dragon Skin will hold up for the six-year warranty period.
the "crime," if there is one, is at most, that Dragon Skin did not
initially submit enough data proving its ballistic performance will
hold up for six years. (The manufacturer strongly disagrees and
disputes NIJ claims that the evidence he initially submitted to them is
"insufficient." He also contends NIJ has evidently decided just "not to
accept" the data he initially submitted. See his complete statement
A careful parsing of this hit-piece shows that OJP/NIJ
have not claimed that they have proof or evidence of any kind that
Dragon Skin’s ballistic performance has failed during its six-year
I am reluctant to point out the most
glaring omission in this press release, because as soon as I do, any
experienced observer of the Washington’s bureaucracy knows that those
soulless keyboard commandos behind this clumsy smear will realize their
failure, and promptly move to "correct" it.
I’m referring to the lack of complaints from any users of Dragon Skin.
Not a single incident, episode, or event is cited.
Not a single law enforcement officer is cited as saying his or her Dragon Skin failed.
Not a single widow or orphan of any law enforcement officer who died from a failure of Dragon Skin is cited.
be surprised if NIJ, perhaps prompted by the Army acquisition mafia,
doesn’t move quickly to fix this "omission" by a full-court press to
create (or even fabricate) a plethora of such citations. Within a few
weeks, or maybe even a few days, we may well see a cascade of
complaints from willing stooges who will provide the needed complaints
about Dragon Skin’s ballistic performance having failed.
there’s a big-time problem with trying this perfidious approach, since
all the Dragon Skin items are serialized and legitimate purchasers are
a matter of record, easily tracked.
This may not be such a smart
maneuver for the OJP/NIJ apparacniks, but since when has smart stopped
the inside-the-beltway bubbas from trying to sneak one past a somnolent
media and apathetic public?
Several callers have asked me if I think the timing of this OJP news release was related to the most recent posting on DefenseWatch which
described Dragon Skin’s recently (on July 10) passing the "High
Temperature" First Article Test Protocol at Aberdeen Test Center (ATC).
good questions. But, in this case I don’t think so, and the reason is
that I don’t think the OJP weasels read DefenseWatch. I say this
because had they been familiar with the results, they might well have
withheld the press release and tried a less clumsy smear/assassination.
this conclusion is a June 22 letter from OJP to Pinnacle Armor in which
the Washington bureaucrats lay bare their connection to their fellow
"goodfellas" in the Army acquisition mafia:
on a review of data obtained by the Department of Defense, NIJ is
concerned that the mechanical integrity of the "Dragon Skin" component
of the body armor may not be maintained under environmental stress. In
Particular, we concerned about the effects of temperature extremes and
cycling on Dragon Skin-based material and its ballistic performance
Well, there we have it. The complaint about Dragon Skin came not from the thousands who have worn it
— military, civilian contractors, US "other government agencies" and
law enforcement — in combat theaters and local police departments,
across a wide variety of geographical, climatic and tactical conditions.
No, the complaint came from an beleaguered band of REMF’s and FOBBIT’s,
headed by some whose most distinguishing martial achievement has been
the ability to avoid placing themselves in harm’s way, while denying
America’s Grunts the best-available body armor.
Some discussion points regarding the OJP/NIJ smear:
In case the OJP/NIJ weasels failed to
note, they certified Dragon Skin SOV-2000 (Level III) in December 2006
while the Army acquisition mafia’s specious claims about the May 2006
First Article Test failures of Dragon Skin cite the SOV-3000 (Level IV)
If OJP/NIJ believes the Army’s data as
presented to the HASC at the June 6 hearing, why did they not cite this
in the press release, after citing it in their June 22 letter? The Army
acquisition mafia did not raise the issue of Dragon Skin’s failure "to
maintain its ballistic [defeating] performance over its six-year
declared warranty period" for a valid reason — the May 2006 test was
on newly manufactured body armor. The Army has not made any public claim involving Dragon Skin’s six-year performance. Making it all the more mysterious as to what event/data caused OJP/NIJ to issue its August 3 notice.
OJP/NIJ does not have any of the
rigorous environmental conditioning test protocols, such as the high
temperature or temperature cycling protocols in the Army’s First
Article Test procedures. Given NIJ’s focus on serving domestic law
enforcement this is understandable. So, why are they now
expanding their heretofore strict and narrow focus which had been on
ballistic-defeating performance at ambient temperatures?
I am unaware of any other body armor
having been retroactively held to such a criteria without some
triggering event of demonstrated ballistic-defeating failure. (If any
reader is aware of same, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
is justifiably well known for the precise scientific standards it
developed for ballistic tests over a period of decades when the US
military basically ignored such criteria. That’s why the NIJ standards,
procedures and protocols are the go-to criteria for ballistic testing
across the entire US Government.
No doubt, the serious
scientists and engineers at NIJ are deeply embarrassed by this blatant
misuse of their carefully built reputation by the
political-bureaucratic side of their organization. Let’s hope someone
inside NIJ has the cajones to toss the red flag and yell, "foul" (but
I’m not holding my breath).
Instead of following normal NIJ
procedures when a previously-certified body armor’s ballistic
performance is questioned — which meant implementing a rigorous
research and testing regimen, and then drawing conclusions based on
empirical data — in this case, the political-bureaucratic hacks tossed
all such honest considerations aside. They opted instead for the quick
and ugly smear.
To see how similar episodes might have been
handled by NIJ, a search of their web site proved very instructive. The
most complete description of the "warranty certification" process (my
phrase, not NIJ’s) that I found is in the July 2006 issue of the NIJ
Journal (No. 254) titled, "Body Armor Safety Initiative: To Protect and Serve…Better" by Dan Tompkins, a writer/editor at the National Institute of Justice and Editor of the NIJ Journal.
Now let’s examine NIJ’s own "detailed" description of the its warranty certification.
is also encouraging manufacturers to adopt a quality management system
to ensure the consistent construction and performance of NIJ-compliant
armor over its warranty period. In the future, NIJ will issue advisories regarding body armor materials that appear to create a risk of death or serious injury as a result of degraded ballistic performance.
Any body armor model that contains any material listed in such an
advisory will be deemed no longer compliant with the NIJ standard unless the manufacturer satisfies NIJ that the model will maintain ballistic performance over the declared warranty period. (Emphasis added.)
how the manufacturer is to "satisfy" NIJ is left for NIJ to define.
Note that no "ballistic performance" test is specified so the message
to the manufacturers seems to be: stay on our good side, or else…
note that each manufacturer defines their own warranty period, so
common sense says that for NIJ to issue a "pass/fail" finding on a
previously certified body armor system would require, at a minimum that
it conduct a separate test of ballistic performance of "used" items at
the end of the specified warranty period. This test would be the same
as the initial certification test, and the difference could be
measured, showing the degradation in ballistic performance over time,
The many variables effecting "used" items certainly
complicate this issue, as the NIJ has acknowledged, and may be a valid
reason for NIJ not having a scientifically-based criteria for
warranty-period evaluation. Which makes more curious in the case of
Dragon Skin the absence of any such expected triggering event, i.e., a
demonstrated failure of to stop a bullet, one within the specific
parameters covered by the NIJ certification. And, following
such a demonstrated failure, one would expect to have seen NIJ’s
vaunted scientifically rigorous testing before issuance of a "not in
compliance" advisory. Again, no such NIJ testing was conducted.
note in the NIJ article cited above, that exactly this kind of testing
did take place after a Pennsylvania policeman wearing body armor
primarily constructed of Zylon (a registered trademark) took "a shot to
the abdomen" that "penetrated the body armor" in the summer of 2003.
[This] shooting was the first case ever reported to NIJ in which body armor
compliant with the NIJ standard failed to prevent penetration from a
bullet it was designed to defeat.
I’ll emphasize, again, NIJ has not cited any such case as contributing to its decision to revoke the certification of Dragon Skin.
This "Zylon" case is worth a bit more attention.
the reported penetration of an NIJ-certified body armor, the NIJ
conducted the kind of serious scientific research to be expected of an
item whose performance is literally a matter of life and death to
American law enforcement. In December 2004 NIJ reported:
study possible reasons for the Forest Hills armor penetration, armor
panels used in the study needed to be uniformly weakened to match the
condition of the officer’s armor. The method used to induce degradation
was to expose some of the new Second Chance armor panels (in carriers)
to water vapor by “conditioning” them in a temperature and humidity
(T&H) chamber. During the conditioning, Zylon® yarn specimens were
removed from somebody armor panels every two weeks to monitor changes
in the mechanical properties and, as part of the applied research, to
look for changes in the chemical properties. After five months of conditioning,
Zylon® yarns from the armor panels exhibited tensile strengths
comparable to those of Zylon® yarns taken from the back panel of the
officer’s body armor in the Forest Hills incident. (See: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/207605.pdf ) (Emphasis added.)
that there was hardly a rush to judgement in the Zylon case. NIJ spent
five months in conditioning and testing just Zylon yarn’s tensile
strength. After one and a half-years from the reported
failure/penetration, no NIJ ballistic testing of "used" body armor had
yet taken place, much less any de-certification. Yet, in
the case of Dragon Skin, NIJ issued its de-certification notice less
than two months after the Army acquisition mafia’s specious
presentation to the House Armed Services Committee on June 6. (NIJ did not re-test Dragon Skin prior to the "Ready-Shoot-Aim" press release on August 3.)
In July 2005 (two years after the reported penetration), NIJ issued another report.
has now completed ballistic and mechanical properties testing on 103
used Zylon®-containing body armors provided by law enforcement agencies
across the United States. Sixty of these used armors (58%) were
penetrated by at least one round during a six-shot test series. Of the
armors that were not penetrated, 91% had backface deformations in
excess of that allowed by the NIJ standard for new armor. Only four of
the used Zylon®-containing armors met all performance criteria expected
under the NIJ standard for new body armor compliance.
Although these results do not conclusively prove that all Zylon®-containing body armor models have performance problems, the results clearly show that used Zylon®-containing body armor may not provide the intended level of ballistic resistance. (Emphasis added.)
Note: NIJ’s "test plan initially called for the evaluation of nearly
500 armor samples, but NIJ was able to obtain less than 80 armors…" I
have been unable to resolve the discrepancy of "less than 80 armors"
obtained and the statement that 103 used-Zylon armors were tested.
Let’s summarize NIJ’s handling of the Zylon case:
by one demonstrated failure of a certified armor. (Two additional
failures/ penetrations, one of which was fatal, were reported shortly
after the first incident).
- Two major test regimens.
- Two and one-half years passed
between the first report that policeman’s body armor had demonstrated
failure to stop a round for which the NIJ had certified that armor, and
the issuance of the "Third Status Report" cited above.
What was the NIJ reaction after this ponderous, meticulous inquiry? Well, it’s interesting to note that the NIJ did not issue an immediate "de-certification" of the Zylon-based body armor.
Rather, the cautious bureaucrats, after having determined that Zylon’s
ballistic-stopping properties "can degrade due to environmental
factors," make this statement:
the meantime, NIJ will implement interim changes to its body armor
compliance testing process. These interim changes create new
requirements for all body armor manufacturers. However, manufacturers
of Zylon®-based armor must satisfy additional requirements. They
must affirmatively demonstrate to NIJ that their body armor will
maintain its ballistic performance during the declared warranty period. Without such evidence, these body armors will not comply with the requirements of NIJ’s body armor compliance testing program.
all non-Zylon-based body armors, NIJ policy — up until this smear
against Pinnacle Armor — seems to have been that the manufacturer’s
warranty is good, until proven otherwise.
And what is the
"proof" that Dragon Skin failed to maintain its ballistic-stopping
properties for the six-year period specified in the Pinnacle Armor
warranty? There’s none, nada, zero, zilch.
Rather, NIJ is
relying only upon clearly suspicious, and almost certainly specious
data from an agency that cannot by any stretch be considered an
unbiased source. This data is strongly disputed by the manufacturer,
and directly contradicted by three independent tests.
The first independent test,
heretofore not publicly described, took place on June 6 and June 7 2006
at the Aberdeen Test Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, less
than a month after the May 2006 tests of Dragon Skin at the H. P. White
commercial test facility.
June 6, a Dragon Skin Level III panel (10×12 inches) was heated for two
hours at 160 degrees F, and then shot. All eleven of eleven shots
within the specified "strike velocity" range were stopped, i.e, all eleven rounds failed to penetrate the Dragon Skin panel.
- On June 7, a Dragon Skin Level IV panel (10×12 inches) was
heated for two hours at 180 degrees F, and then shot. All five of five
shots within the specified "strike velocity" were stopped, i.e., all five rounds failed to penetrate the Dragon Skin panel.
Note: Pinnacle Armor provided the above results to the head of the body
armor office at PEO-SOLDIER, Col. John Norwood, shortly after the June
2006 tests. These positive results at an independent test facility were
not mentioned by the Army capos at the June 6, 2007 HASC hearing.
The second independent test, in October 2006, involved heating Dragon Skin SOV 2000 (Level III) to 170 degrees F. for 12 hours prior to shooting. See: the article "Dragon
Skin Passes Another, Non-DOD, Level III Test In Direct Comparison With
Armored Mobility Incorporated (AMI) Level III Plate Armor". Result: Dragon Skin passed.
The third independent test
was the July 10, 2007 test at Aberdeen Test Center that precisely
replicated the FAT protocol for high temperature. See: the recent article on Dragon Skin passing ATC "High temperature" test. Result: Dragon Skin passed.
then has OJP/NIJ relied solely upon allegations by the Army’s
acquisition mafia based on disputed data from one test with serious,
probably fatal credibility issues, while ignoring three independent
tests that offer directly contradictory data?
would have expected the normally cautious bureaucrats at NIJ to have
demanded additional testing before reaching any conclusions (and
issuing "de-certification" notices). Which makes the audacity of the
August 3 notice all the more striking, even bizarre.
When DefenseWatch asked Murray Neal, President and CEO of Pinnacle Armor for a short comment, he responded:
have submitted and will follow up with additional data that will
demonstrate 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-year old armor that was tested which has
200-plus feet per second higher ballistic limit data than what is
currently required for the NIJ-certified Level III threat. I do not
know of any other way to present actual data that confirms that we can
pass the test, i.e., data on old body armor, without shooting the old
armor, and evidently NIJ has currently elected not to accept
the initial baseline ballistic limit test data which was shot at an
NIJ approved laboratory. (Emphasis added.)
a minimum, one would have expected NIJ to "shoot" some of the old vests
available from Pinnacle Armor, and to measure the degradation in
ballistic performance — if any.
no — NIJ seems as nervous about such testing as the Army is about
side-by-side testing of Dragon Skin and Interceptor ESAPI plates.
has placed bureaucratic loyalty to the Army acquisition mafia and
protection of current body armor programs ahead of its loyalty to US
domestic law enforcement. This sad and corrupt maneuver is
just the latest one in the ongoing battle to prevent truly independent
testing — full and fair testing — of all body armor alternatives.
And the key question remains: Why is the Army acquisition mafia so opposed to such testing?