Saturday, January 21, 2006
The Army, under pressure to issue more protective gear to its soldiers in Iraq, has signed a $70 million emergency contract with a California company to rush ceramic body armor to the front lines.
The sole-source contract, with California-based Ceradyne Inc., was approved last week and announced yesterday. It comes on the heels of a Pentagon finding that side armor could have saved dozens of U.S. lives in Iraq.
The Army is planning to buy 230,000 sets of the ceramic side plates. Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that one company will not be able to deliver that order in the time required, so additional vendors are being sought through an open-bid process.
"Our goal is to continue providing the American soldier with the best, most protective body armor in the world," Boyce said. "We are working with soldiers, commanders, the medical community and industry to continue these improvements while ensuring the safety of our soldiers."
Each of the side plates weighs 2 1/2 pounds. Earlier this week, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said he thought soldiers should be required to wear the ceramic side plates even though they add weight and may limit mobility.