View Full Version : SysCom steps up to plate

01-17-06, 12:44 PM
SysCom steps up to plate
Last year was tough for Marine Corps Systems Command.

In May, officials there recalled more than 5,000 outer tactical vests as Marine Corps Times was preparing to report that engineers at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., believed the vests had critical, life-threatening flaws.

Then in November, the Corps and the Army recalled a total of 18,000 more vests, this time because investigators found that some fell short of ballistics requirements when they were manufactured in 2000 and 2001.

Now comes word that a study conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, completed in August, found that among 93 Marines killed in action from wounds to the torso, roughly 80 percent might have survived if the plates had covered more of their upper body.

More bad news for SysCom? Not really.

The Quantico, Va.-based command asked for the study back in August 2004. And working off of preliminary findings beginning in March 2005, SysCom officials funded the rapid prototyping and fielding of new side plates to better protect Marines. Remarkably, they already had prototypes under development by June, signed contracts in September and 9,000 plates in the field by year’s end.

In fact, by April, every Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan should have side plates.

In the Pentagon’s convoluted acquisition world, where it can take two decades to develop an airplane, this is almost unheard of. The speed with which officials at SysCom identified and addressed this problem is to be applauded, because there’s no doubt that these side plates will save lives.

But fielding these new side Small Arms Protective Inserts, or SAPIs, cannot be the end of the story.

As Corps officials continue to search for lighter armor materials, the Pentagon and Congress need to keep this issue on their radar screens and get behind SysCom in its quest to protect Marines.