Better-fitting female body armor considered for the 2021 defense budget

Elizabeth Howe
June 17, 2020 - 12:35 pm
Female Marine

DVIDS

Thanks to the few women veterans in Congress, a provision for better-fitting female body armor was included in the Senate's draft version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. 

Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bill in December last year pushing for better-fitting personal protective gear for all service members including women -- who currently face increased risk for injury due to ill-fitting gear. The battle for better-fitting body armor didn't start in 2019 -- it's been ongoing for years -- but thus far, no such gear has been provided. 

House approves funding for women-specific body armor

Reports from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) have shown both that poorly-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) causes injuries — and that properly fitted armor for smaller service members is in short demand. Women-specific and smaller sized PPE is limited across all branches and generally only issued to female troops who are deploying. 

Again, however, funding for better-fitting and female-specific body armor was also included in the 2019 and 2020 defense spending bills. Ernst and Duckworth are hopeful that with the provisions in the Senate's 2021 NDAA draft along with the Female Body Armor Modernization Act introduced in December -- this body armor will finally be available. 

“Women continue to make strides in serving in critical roles within our nation’s military," Ernst said when the bill was introduced. "As a woman who served in combat and commanded troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and with my own daughter who is going through training right now at West Point, I understand just how important it is for all service members to be properly equipped for the battlefield."

Ernst was the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate. 

Meet the 7 women veterans serving in Congress

“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 service members in mind,” Duckworth said regarding this provision. “That’s one reason why I’m proud my bill to enhance troop readiness by helping make sure our female servicemembers are properly equipped for combat was included in this committee-passed version, and I’ll keep working to make sure it becomes law.”

The massive defense spending bill has a long road ahead before it becomes law. The House is expected to begin a markup of its draft version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act on July 1, though further information on the House draft are expected later this month. Senators have not yet said when their draft of the bill will head to the floor for a vote, but it passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

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Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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