March 31, 2006

Army blocks soldiers from using own body armor

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Army said on Friday U.S.
soldiers can only use body armor provided by the Pentagon even
though some have bought their own because they felt what the
military provided was insufficient.

"There is, obviously, sufficient body armor for every
deployed service member," said Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon
spokesman in outlining the new policy.

Whitman said military leaders had decided to require
soldiers to use Pentagon issue armor because they did not want
to "put anybody at risk by using something that is inferior to
the high-quality, tested product that they are providing their
service members."

The Army took the action of banning the private body armor
purchases on its own, while the other branches of the military
have not. The Army provides the vast majority of ground troops
in the Iraq war, while the Marines provide a smaller portion.

"The body armor that the services are issuing to deployed
service members is the best body armor available," Whitman

Some troops and their families have purchased their own
body armor and other equipment from private companies after the
Pentagon failed to provide the gear they felt was necessary.
Critics of the Bush administration have periodically seized on
this as an illustration of what they see as poor planning for
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President George W. Bush last October signed into law
legislation requiring the Pentagon to set rules for reimbursing
U.S. troops, their families and charities up to $1,100 for the
purchase of protective, health and safety gear to use in those
war zones.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, questioned
why U.S. soldiers were still feeling the need to purchase
equipment to keep them safe.

"The Bush administration, to put it mildly, has a poor
record of ensuring our troops are getting what they need."