Air Force officials seek debarment of body armor maker

Contracting officials at Air Force Materiel Command have taken the unusual step of recommending that the Air Force prohibit Pinnacle Armor Inc., from signing new contracts with the U.S. government.

The recommendation, which comes from the command that oversees many of the service's research and procurement programs, will be reviewed by the Air Force general counsel's office with a final decision not expected for several weeks, a service spokesman said.

The command's decision, submitted to Air Force headquarters last Friday, coincides with public allegations by Air Force and Army officials that the Fresno, Calif.-based company placed a label on its Dragon Skin body armor claiming the product had been certified to meet a certain ballistic testing standard when it had not. The Air Force said it purchased this improperly labeled body armor.

"We're hoping to resolve the issues with the Air Force as soon as possible," a company spokesman said. "We haven't done anything wrong."

Contracting debarments, which extend across the federal government, typically do not last longer than three years. But that would still be a devastating blow for Pinnacle Armor, which has hoped to leverage its Dragon Skin flexible armor to make significant inroads into the lucrative world of military contracting.

If the Air Force debars Pinnacle Armor, the decision would indicate the service has an "open-and-shut case" of contractor negligence, said Keith Ashdown of the Washington-based watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense. But, he added: "Debarment is as likely as there being a lunar eclipse tomorrow. ... It almost never happens."

A total of 5,864 companies are now prohibited from doing business with the federal government, according to the General Services Administration's "Excluded Parties List System" Web site. But only about 10 percent of those originated from the Defense Department, the military services and other defense agencies.

The Air Force last year was notified by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center that Pinnacle Armor had no body armor certified to meet the National Institute of Justice's Level III standard. But the armor bought by the Air Force was "clearly and falsely marked" with a label purporting that it met Level III standards, according to written June 6 congressional testimony from Douglas Thomas, executive director of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The Air Force then directed an independent lab to put the Dragon Skin armor through Level III testing, which the vests ultimately failed, Thomas said. Pinnacle Armor's CEO, Murray Neal, told reporters on Capitol Hill last week that the National Institute of Justice had "verbally" informed him to affix the label to the Dragon Skin armor. The armor did not officially receive Level III certification until eight months later.

Last Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the company's claims about Dragon Skin body armor.

Lawmakers, including House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., have called for more tests on Dragon Skin to determine whether or not the flexible armor performs better, as Pinnacle Armor has claimed, than the military's more rigid interceptor body armor now used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But lawmakers also were extremely upset with the marketing claims by Pinnacle Armor despite the failure of its Dragon Skin vests to pass previous Army tests.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.