Body armor meeting NIJ .06 standards now available
A little less than one year ago, the National Institute of Justice released NIJ Standard-0101.06, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor, the latest evolution in standards by which law enforcement protective vests are measured. As part of our ongoing coverage of this issue, in early February of this year PoliceOne asked the question: “What vests will meet that standard, and when will they be on the market?”
That question has — at least in part — been answered this week with the news that Safariland (a division of BAE Systems) is among the first companies to receive approval from the NIJ. As of June 1, 2009, the Safariland XT-700 Type II and XT-300 Type IIIA are the only Threat Level II and Threat Level IIIA vests that have been authorized by NIJ under the new NIJ-06 standard.
“Bob Weber and Dave Miller and their crew in our labs in Ontario worked tirelessly and diligently to bring this to fruition,” said Ed Hinchey, Safariland Armor Technical Specialist in an exclusive interview with PoliceOne. “Because of their excellent work, we have those [vests] that are posted to the list and more to come that are ready — you can literally purchase them right now. We can deliver them to your department so you can gear up.”
Hinchey, a 21-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Police Department, was inducted into Safariland’s “Legion of Life” after a Safariland vest saved his life during a shooting.
When asked about being the first company to release for sale new armor designs that that meet the .06 standard, Hinchey said it isn’t about a race, it’s about providing the best protection for officers. “What we’re looking at is what we’re able to provide to the law enforcement community, which is the best technology and a family of solutions for their mission-specific needs.”
That said, there is a first-mover advantage that cannot be discounted. “We’re ready to go,” Hinchey said. “We’re prepared for a run on the store. We’re fully anticipating that a lot of departments, big and small, were awaiting these particular new standards, and a lot of folks are waiting to get the best of the best.”
More Rigorous Testing = Better Armor
The .06 standard, which “establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor designed to protect the torso against gunfire,” supersedes NIJ 2005 Interim Requirements, Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor and the NIJ Standard-0101.04 Rev. A, Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armor.
Safariland says that it used its “most advanced technologies, including proprietary designs and leading-edge materials,” to develop the body armor models that meet the .06 standard.
“The stricter standards are incredibly tough, but it’s better for law enforcement,” Hinchey said. “It’s going to give police officers armor that went though a whole lot more testing than in the past, and armor that we know a whole lot more about as it’s being released. That is a positive thing for the law enforcement community,”
The goals of the .06 standard is to improve the safety of law enforcement by increasing ballistics performance against new, emerging threats and enhancing durability of armor to withstand the rigors of daily wear. Although the new body armor standard does not invalidate body armor models that are compliant with the “old” standard — any officer who today has a vest that meets the existing standard should continue to wear it — the .06 standard specifies a far more rigorous testing process. This includes subjecting armor to conditions of high heat, humidity, and mechanical wear before testing.
Getting Grant Funding: Deadlines Loom
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 1998 (BVPGA), which is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), provides assistance funds — as much as half of the purchase price — for body armor that complies with NIJ Standards. That BVP funding can still be applied to vests that meeting the .04 standard, but it stands to reason that those monies will eventually migrate more heavily toward the purchase of the latest generation of armor.
Applications for FY 2009 BVP funds must be submitted by 1700 hours (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. In the past decade, nearly 12,000 jurisdictions have participated in the BVP program, with about $173 million in federal funds used to support the purchase of nearly a half million pieces of police body armor.
On the matter of acquiring grant funding, Hinchey was at once hopeful and skeptical. “We’re not sure exactly how the BVP program is going to work things right now — if there’s going to be an extended period or how they’re going to deal with it, because it is a pretty tight window.”
Note that FY 2009 BVP funds may only be used toward the purchase of vests ordered on or after April 1, 2009. Each vest purchased with FY 2009 funds must meet National Institute of Justice (NIJ) standards on the date it was ordered. Beginning with FY 2008 funds, the use period for BVP funds will be two years. To draw down FY 2009 BVP funds, vests must be received and the request for payment submitted to the BVP system by September 30, 2011.
Even if that FY09 BVP window closes before an agency is able to get together its proposal, there remains the opportunity to seek funding available to law enforcement agencies through the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” (SFSF), an appropriation of $53.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
As has previously been reported, there is up to $8.8 billion in the SFSF, to be administered and distributed by the U. S. Department of Education, for “public safety and other government services.” While states must use 81.8 percent of SFSF funds for the “support of public elementary, secondary, and higher education, and, as applicable, early childhood education programs and services” there is language which gives states (and by extension their governors and legislatures) the latitude to spend the remaining 18.2 percent on purchases that meet the objectives of public safety.