Constituent Services
Higgins Fights to See Troops Receive Best Equipment Available
June 7, 2007

Seeks explanation for policy that is unclear about what equipment troops may use

 

Washington, D.C- Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter to the United States Marine Corps today looking for answers about their policy on the wear and purchase of body armor and personal protective equipment (PPE).  The policy has prevented a West Seneca Marine and his platoon, currently stationed in Iraq, from using protective vests purchased for them by the American Legion Post 735 of West Seneca, NY.

 

“Our men and women on the ground in Iraq should have access to the best protective equipment available, but many of our troops do not feel that their equipment is the safest that there is,” said Higgins. “Something needs to be done to address this as quickly as possible.”

 

Mark McMahon, father of Marine Lance Corporal Michael McMahon, currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, purchased twenty Spartan 2 vests for his son and his son’s platoon with the help of American Legion Post 735 of West Seneca.  McMahon purchased these vests after his son was told they had been approved by the Marine Corps to use in place of government issued vests. However, just before the McMahon’s platoon was deployed, they learned that they would not be allowed to use the vests.  Congressman Higgins became involved after receiving numerous calls about the issue, including calls from American Legion members. 

 

In a letter to United States Marine Corps General James Conway, Congressman Higgins criticizes the policy of the Marine Corps with regard to PPE as being unclear.  The policy states that “Commanders may authorize members of their commands to use commercially purchased PPE items in addition to those issued by the government, as long as additions do not interfere with the functionality of approved PPE.” Further confusing the policy are advertisements by the company who produces the Spartan 2 vests claiming they meet Marine Corps orders.  

 

In order to address this issue and improve troop protection, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing investigating Department of Defense body armor programs this Wednesday. Congressman Higgins has also joined Representative Joe Courtney and other House colleagues in asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate if our troops are currently issued the best available body armor system, evaluate the adequacy of the testing and evaluation process for body armor, and to examine how current body armor policies, including a policy issued last year restricting the use of unofficial but commercially available armor. 

 

“Our troops deserve better than misleading advertising and policies that leave them confused about what protection is available to them,” Higgins said.  “We clearly need to reevaluate what can be done to ensure that our troops are using the best body armor and PPE that there is.”

 

 

The text of the letter follows:

 

 June 7, 2007

 

 

General James T. Conway

34th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps

U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters

Pentagon, Room 4E586

Washington, DC 20301

 

General Conway:

 

It is with grave concern for the safety of my constituents serving in Iraq that I seek answers about the United States Marine Corps (USMC) policy on the wear and purchase of body armor and personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

Recently American Legion Post 735 of West Seneca, NY purchased 20 Spartan 2 vests for the Platoon of one of my constituents.  The vests are distinct from the plates and soft ballistics that they are made to hold.  Before the platoon was sent to Iraq they were told that they were not allowed to use the new vests. 

 

It is my understanding that the Spartan 2 vest has been used by some servicemembers at the discretion of their Commander.  According to MARADMIN 262/07, “Commanders may authorize members of their commands to use commercially purchased PPE items in addition to those issued by the government, as long as additions do not interfere with the functionality of approved PPE.”  This policy makes it unclear as to what PPE is acceptable for use.  In addition, the situation is made worse by apparently misleading advertising practices.  For example, the Tactical Applications Group, which sells the Spartan 2 vest and is located near Camp LeJeune, advertised on their website as late as June 6, 2007 that the Spartan 2 “won the USMC MTV contract” and “uses all the issued ballistics, this meeting USMC and US Army orders.”

 

There are many servicemembers that do not feel currently approved PPE is the best available.  In order to address this issue and improve troop protection, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing investigating Department of Defense body armor programs this Wednesday.  However, concerns brought up at this hearing have yet to be fully addressed, and making matters worse current policy has caused confusion as to what PPE are approved for use.

 

It is unacceptable that current policy has left the men and women of our armed services with doubts about the quality of their issued PPE and confusion over what additional steps they can take to protect themselves.  Every American soldier should have access to the best body armor available and they should have clear guidance on what additional equipment is approved for use.  I would like to know what needs to be done to improve the quality of body armor used by our troops, clarification as to what, if any, additional PPE our troops are permitted to use.

                                            -30-


 
 
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