WASHINGTON, D.C. (KFVS) - Four U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure female service members are wearing body armor and protective equipment that fits them properly.
Senators Tammy Duckworth, Joni Ernst, Martha McSally and Richard Blumenthal believe addressing this issue will not only protect service members, but also improve troop readiness and effectiveness.
The lawmakers state that service branches have been working to make improvements to achieve the proper protection and fit for personal protective equipment (PPE) for all service members, but more work needs to be done.
According to reports from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), poorly-fitting PPE is a leading cause of injury for all service members, whether deployed or in training. In addition, female-specific PPE and smaller sized PPE was severely limited and only issued to some women who were deploying and not to any females during initial entry training (IET) or in regular unit environments.
Sen. Duckworth said her military experiences helped play a roll in creating the bill.
“When I was serving overseas, I experienced firsthand how our military’s body armor and protective equipment hasn’t always been constructed with the health and comfort of female servicemembers in mind,” Duckworth said.
The following is a breakdown of what the legislation would do, if approved:
- 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.