Tech. Sgt. Emily Souza, 23d Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of combat arms, adjusts body armor Nov. 20, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

Tech. Sgt. Emily Souza, 23d Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of combat arms, adjusts body armor Nov. 20, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jasmine M. Barnes

To US Army, Getting Women’s Body Armor Quickly Is an Unfunded Priority

Lawmakers question why the service left $81 million to “accelerate” gear for women and short men out of its latest budget request.

Fielding better-fitting body armor for female and small-statured service members has long been on the Defense Department’s to-do list. Three years ago, female veterans in Congress introduced a bill to force the issue. On Monday, DOD leaders told Congress they now have the designs and enough money to start producing the gear—but the Army has requested another $81 million to accelerate the program by three years  

That request for extra funds to “accelerate” the modernization and fielding of the personal protective equipment—submitted as part of the Army’s “unfunded mandates” wish list of items left out of the president’s defense spending request—has prompted some lawmakers to question whether the Pentagon indeed had given body armor for women the right amount of money or attention they believe it still requires. 

During a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces hearing Monday on Army and Marine Corps ground systems modernization programs, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., asked DOD leaders if President Joe Biden’s budget request for fiscal year 2022 included enough funds to “properly study and then procure” PPE for female soldiers and Marines. 

“Absolutely,” answered Gen. John Murray, who leads Army Futures Command. 

In the president’s budget request, the Army included $155 million in 2022 for better fitting body armor and extreme cold weather gear specifically for future Arctic operations, Defense News reported. The Biden administration's initial budget request documents do not show line item listings for body armor and “individual equipment” funds, the two accounts which cover things like helmets, bullet-proof plates and other gear. But according to last year’s Pentagon request, funding for body armor has fluctuated wildly. In 2019, the Army spent $245.4 million in total on body armor and $107.9 million for individual equipment. Those totals were expected to change significantly in 2020, to $176.8 million for body armor and $180.3 million for other PPE. In 2021, the Pentagon requested an increase to $234.6 million for body armor and a decrease to $127.2 million for PPE. 

The Army did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on what funds in its $5.5 billion 2022 budget request would go towards small-stature body armor. 

Progress to outfit women in the military has been slow. In June 2020, the Air Force’s Female Fitment Program Office awarded its first contract for improved female body armor. The branch started fielding the equipment one unit at a time by the end of last year. Provisions for female body armor were included in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, and the Army plans to roll out its modular scalable vest to small-stature soldiers with the 82nd Airborne later this summer.

Murray described the Army’s modern body armor for both women and small-stature male soldiers as “better produced and cut” to accommodate a “vastly expanded” range of sizes. The efforts to modernize PPE looked at specific undergarments, plate carriers, shooter’s cuts, and lightweight materials. 

“The research and development at Natick is almost continuous,” Murray said, referring to the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center. “And then, as we make those breakthroughs, we roll that out into production to continually improve our protective material protection for our soldiers.”

Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told lawmakers the Marine Corps is “lockstep” with the Army in looking for the best, lightest body armor. 

“We do have the money to do it. We have what we need,” Smith said. 

But the slow pace will likely continue without more money. 

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., asked why—if both the Army and Marine Corps believe they have the necessary funding—the Army’s unfunded priorities list requested another $81.7 million. 

“The unfunded item is over and above what’s in the budget,” said Douglas Bush, acting assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology. “I believe the unfunded list refers to that as an opportunity to accelerate fielding.”

The Army’s unfunded list document says that without the extra funds, small-statured troops will continue using body armor that does not provide the maximum level of protection. It calls this risk “significant.”

“It just seems like this female body armor, small-stature body armor, is a critical funding piece,” said Sherrill, who served as a helicopter pilot in the Navy. “Having been in the military myself with gear that didn’t fit, not being able to fly over water during specifically cold months because my dry suit didn’t fit—this seems like a pretty critical piece of gear.”

Sherrill said that, in the face of the shift to great power competition against near-peers, the Army’s budget request for landmines seems less “imperative” than better-fitting body armor. 

“I am curious about if you foresee the use of landmines in any sort of conflict with China in the future,” she said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.