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January 26, 2006
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All's not quiet on the military supply front

By Timothy L. O'Brien
The New York Times

A 9-millimeter bullet, erupting from the barrel of a handgun at 1,100 to 1,400 feet per second, can puncture skin, splinter bone and shred internal organs. A 7.62-millimeter rifle slug, flashing along at about 2,750 feet a second, dispatches targets at greater distances and with more accuracy and force than most handgun ammunition. And the human body essentially a large, mobile sack of water offers little resistance to bullets of any caliber.

Bulletproof vests, made of Kevlar and other fabrics, are meant to shield vulnerable bodies, giving a veteran cop on the beat or a young soldier on patrol in Baghdad added protection. Most vests, if properly designed, can stop a 9-millimeter handgun bullet. No vest, unless it is supplemented with heavy, brittle ceramic inserts, can stop a high-velocity rifle bullet. Over time, or with repeated exposure to gunfire, all vests degrade and lose their stopping power. Still, well-made vests offer wearers a measure of security in encounters that might otherwise prove fatal.
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When the Iraq war began in early 2003, analysts say, the American military hadn't stocked up on body armor because the White House did not intend to send a large occupational force. The White House game plan called for lightning strikes led by lithe, technologically adept forces that would snare a quick victory. A light deployment of troops and a harmonious occupation were to follow, with the Pentagon anticipating relatively little hand-to-hand or house-to-house fighting. But as the breadth and duration of the Iraqi occupation grew, the war became a series of perilous, unpredictable street fights in Baghdad and other cities, leaving soldiers exposed to sniper fire and close-quarters combat and in urgent need of hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests.

For full story, visit: All's Not Quiet on the Military Supply Front



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