The Pentagon held a briefing Monday in response to a story first aired last week by NBC News about military body armor. NBC's report suggested an armored vest called Dragon Skin might provide better protection than the body armor the Army issues to soldiers, called Interceptor.
NBC commissioned an independent limited test in which Dragon Skin outperformed Interceptor under some conditions.
Today, the Army made public its own testing, asserting that Dragon Skin failed its tests and that Interceptor is the best armor available.
Brig. Gen. Mark Brown said Monday: "We value our soldiers very highly, and we do everything we can do to ensure that they have the finest in force protection as they go into the battle."
As NBC reported on Dateline on Sunday, Brown says the Army tested Dragon Skin and it failed miserably. Brown says Dragon Skin failed at room temperature as well as in extreme heat and extreme cold -- environments that can parallel conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An Army briefing paper says, the vest "suffered catastrophic failure... at minus 60 Fahrenheit, and at 120 and 160 degrees." The Army claims the adhesive holding the discs together failed, causing the discs to separate.
Experts who witnessed the NBC test say the contradictory results demonstrate the Army should conduct a new round of independent testing, which the Army has resisted.
Retired four-star Army Gen. Wayne Downing -- an NBC new analyst -- observed the NBC-commissioned tests. He says, "The Interceptor Body Armor did quite well. It's just that Dragon Skin did better. What I take away from this test is it deserves a full, unbiased test by a neutral party. Because I thought it was pretty dog-gone good."
Downing was aware of Army test results at that time and has since been briefed by the Army. He says he remains convinced that the results of the NBC tests in Germany warrant full-scale independent tests.
Philip Coyle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and chief weapons tester for the Pentagon, also observed the NBC tests and has since received a briefing on the Army's test results.
He says, "It's clear to me from the tests that I observed that Dragon Skin has got some real advantages. General Brown has said that they want the best they can get for US soldiers. If that's true, they ought to be evaluating Dragon Skin side by side with Interceptor. That's going to mean side-by-side tests, where they do the same thing to both under the same conditions -- a level playing field for both sets of contractors."
Several Democratic U.S. senators, including Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, have called for independent tests done outside the Army.
"When I say independent, I mean a body that is not invested in the current system. Independent meaning GAO or a third-party that can take a look at the present body-armor system and the Dragon Skin and make a determination as to which is better, and how much better," Webb tells NBC News