National Defense Authorization Act provision pushes Pentagon to buy body armor, PPE for female troops
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The Senate is pushing for the Pentagon to provide better combat equipment for female troops through a bipartisan effort known as the Female Body Armor Modernization Act.
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The Female Body Armor Modernization Act, first introduced in December 2019 by Armed Services Committee members Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would direct the Pentagon to coordinate their efforts with other government agencies to equip women with body armor and other personal protective equipment in order to reduce injuries related to ill-fitting gear.
"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 regarding the provision. “That’s one reason why I’m proud my bill to enhance troop readiness by helping make sure our female service members are properly equipped for combat was included this bill, and I look forward to it becoming law."
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The measure would require the Services to submit reports to Congress regarding any barriers faced in fielding the new equipmenet to service members, such as cost overruns or contractor delays. The Defense Health Agency would also be required to maintain a database that would track gear-related injuires and submit a report to Congress in fiscal year 2025 identifying "the prevalence of preventable injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE."
In addition, the Department of Defense would be required to include questions in its annual Periodic Health Assessment on the nature and prevalence of injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE.
"Women serve in critical roles within our nation’s military so we need to make sure our female servicemembers are properly equipped for the battlefield," Ernst said in a statement on Friday. "Through my efforts, and that of my fellow Army combat veteran, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, this defense bill ensures female troops will have body armor that fits them properly and requires the Pentagon to regularly report to Congress their progress in getting this done."
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According to data released by the Government Accountability Office in May, the Air Force has the highest percentage of female active-duty service members (20.2%), followed by the Navy (19.6%), the Army (15.1%), and the Marine Corps (8.6%).