US: Military Vests Recalled

Army, Marines claim thousands more protective body armor vests made by Point Blank Body Armor Inc., failed to pass ballistic tests.
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 The Army and Marine Corps have ordered the recall of more than 18,000 protective vests made by a unit of a Long Island company, saying yesterday that the vests failed to meet specifications in recent tests.

Some of the vests were used by U.S. troops in Iraq, but a Marine spokeswoman said the soldiers were not at risk.

The two services said they ordered the recall of the vests made by Point Blank Body Armor Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla., a subsidiary of DHB Industries Inc. of Westbury, after a review of ballistic tests in September. The recall came just a day after the company received a new Pentagon order for other body armor worth more than $30 million.

"The recall comes as a result of an operational test and evaluation surveillance study that revealed that some of the lots of outer tactical vests produced may not meet specifications," said Marine Maj. Gabrielle Chapin.

In a statement, Larry Ellis, DHB's president, said that, "To our knowledge, none of the hundreds of thousands of outer tactical vests that Point Blank has manufactured have failed in the field - an extraordinary achievement. All testing procedures for these vests were approved by, and conducted under the close supervision of the U.S. government."

The Army recalled 8,083 vests dating from 1999 to 2001. The Marines recalled 10,342 dating from 2000 and 2001. Military officials said, however, that the recalled vests were a fraction of the approximately 181,000 vests that have been fielded.

The vests were designed to protect against 9 mm pistol rounds and some fragmentation threats, the Pentagon has said. Pentagon officials said that while the vests may have failed to meet specifications in tests, they did not fall short of the requirements for the threat they were designed to repel.

Contract ballistic specifications are set higher than the actual threat they are supposed to stop.

Point Blank has been a leading supplier of the vests to the Army and the Marine Corps. In May, the Marines recalled about 5,000 Point Blank vests used in Iraq after questions arose about whether they offered adequate protection.

"Even though they may not have met contract specifications there's no evidence to suggest (troops) would be or had been at risk," Chapin said.

Chapin said the recall does not include the ballistic-resistent Kevlar ceramic plates inside the vests.

DHB's stock has suffered all year as a result of recalls and a spate of shareholder lawsuits. Shares reached a high this year of $17.84 on Jan. 30. They have since fallen more than 80 percent, to below $4. DHB fell another 20 cents yesterday, to $3.69.

Despite the problems, DHB issued an announcement yesterday that its Point Blank subsidiary has received a $30.1-million order for the company's outer tactical vests. Army officials could not be reached for comment on the order.

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