Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, announced her cosponsorship of the Female Body Armor Modernization Act of 2019 to help equip female and male service members with properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE). Often, access to female-specific or non-standard male body armor is severely limited and mostly issued to service members who are deploying, and not during initial entry training (IET) or in garrison environments. Research has shown that poorly-fitting PPE is a leading cause of injury for all service members; it can lead to injuries, fatigue and severe discomfort.
The bipartisan bill would call for expedited procurement and deployment of body armor that is properly-fitted for women and some male service members. The bill would also require the Defense Health Agency to track injuries associated with ill-fitting equipment, better enabling the Department to address this urgent issue.
“Ill-fitting equipment can make it hard for women service members, and some men, to do their jobs. Poor-fitting protective equipment increases the risk of injuries and fatigue, and in some cases, could make the difference between life and death,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our service members risk their lives to keep us safe, and we must provide them with the resources they need. This bipartisan bill will ensure our women service members are properly equipped and ready to defend our nation on the battlefield.”
Recent reports by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) have shown that access to female-specific PPE and smaller sized PPE was severely limited and only issued to some women who were deploying, and not to any women during initial entry training (IET) or in regular unit environments. In addition, their research has shown that poorly-fitting PPE is a leading cause of injury for all service members, including both those who are deployed and in training. While the service branches have been working to make improvements to achieve the proper protection and fit for PPE for all service members, including women and some men who do not fit the average body armor dimensions, there is still work to be done to ensure all military members are adequately equipped both during training and in combat.
Specifically, the Female Body Armor Modernization Act would do the following:
- Encourage the Services to expedite the contracting, procuring, and fielding of new generation PPE that better fits and protects all service members, to include females, and reduces preventable injuries.
- Encourage collaboration with academia and industry, utilizing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, human factors modeling, and digital predictive human modeling to develop the next generation of combat equipment and PPE.
- Require the Services to submit a report to Congress in the 2021 Fiscal Year concerning any barriers that they have encountered when fielding their newest versions of PPE to service members. The report would include any cost overruns or contractor delays in fielding this new equipment to service members.
- Require the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to begin administering a trackable system for data input related to injuries to accompany the issuance of new PPE. This could be done through an already-existing system such as the Defense Occupational And Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS).
- Require DHA to provide a report to Congress in the 2025 Fiscal Year identifying the prevalence of preventable injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE.
- Require the DoD to include questions in the annual Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) on the nature and prevalence of injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE.
The full text of the legislation may be found here.