U.S. Army
U.S. Army soldier with an assault rifle. REUTERS/Win McNamee

According to a new report from the Defense Department Inspector General, the U.S. Army failed to properly test five million plates of body armor that were to be used to protect soldiers on the battlefield.

The Inspector found that the Army office in charge of insuring quality armor ignored certain failed tests of the life-saving gear.

"The Army cannot be sure that the appropriate level of protection has been achieved," the report says. Now, it'll go back and retest the vests, some of which were bought as long as seven years ago.

Testing of the plate inserts were either improperly done or in some cases not done at all. However, this does not mean that all five million plates are defective, but it calls into question the reliability of the equipment the troops need for protection.

Between 2004 and 2006, seven contracts filled with $2.5 billion worth of Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) inserts were purchased, with each consisting of a vest that holds inserted plates designed to stop small projectiles.

Two of the contracts did not receive testing by the Army's Project Manager Soldier Equipment (PM SEQ) to find the velocity at which a projectile could penetrate the plates saying that they weren't concerned about the design.

The report stated that the plates didn't receive the same consistent testing for requirements such as plate size, weather, altitude or temperature. PM SEQ Director of Technical Management reported to the Inspector General that rigorous tests would take too long to meet the "urgent wartime operational requirement" for body armor.

This is only the most recent report of improper body armor testing investigated by the Inspector General. In March 2008, the Inspector found 13 body armor contracts where proper testing wasn't performed leading to a series of quality assurance problems. The next year, the Army recalled 16,000 of the ceramic plates.

Both the Army and Marines have fielded criticism with their handling of body armor for the troops and it remains to be seen if any armor is going to be recalled or if policy will change from speed of production over quality.