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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) co-sponsored bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) to ensure body armor and personal protective equipment (PPE) is adequate, properly-fitted, and readily available for female servicemembers.

“We need to make sure that every American servicemember is well equipped in order to stay safe as they defend our freedoms, and addressing the lack of proper body armor for female servicemembers is essential to fulfilling that obligation,” said Senator Tillis, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. “I’m proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan legislation led by Senator Ernst to ensure the body armor and protective equipment female servicemembers need and deserve is readily available.”

“As a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I understand firsthand the importance of providing our female servicemembers with the proper equipment to ensure their readiness, survivability, and effectiveness in combat, especially as women continue to play increasingly important roles in our nation’s military,” said Senator Ernst, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. “The growing bipartisan support for this legislation demonstrates just how important and commonsense it is, and I’m hopeful this momentum will lead to getting it across the finish line.”

Representatives Joe Wilson (SC-02), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Trent Kelly (MS-01), Elaine Luria (VA-02), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), and Steve Stivers (OH-15) have introduced a similar measure in the House of Representatives.

Background: Recent reports by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) have shown that access to female-specific PPE and smaller sized PPE was severely limited and only issued to some women who were deploying and not to any females during initial entry training (IET) or in regular unit environments. In addition, their research has shown that poorly-fitting PPE is a leading cause of injury for all servicemembers, those who are deployed and in training. While the service branches have been working to make improvements to achieve the proper protection and fit for PPE for all servicemembers, including females and small statured males, there is still work to be done to ensure all military members are adequately equipped both during training and in combat.

The Female Body Armor Modernization Act of 2019 would:

  • Encourage the Services to expedite the contracting, procuring, and fielding of new generation PPE that better fits and protects all servicemembers, to include females, and reduces preventable injuries.
  • Encourage collaboration with academia and industry, utilizing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, human factors modeling, and digital predictive human modeling to develop the next generation of combat equipment and PPE.
  • Require the Services to submit a report to Congress in the 2021 Fiscal Year concerning any barriers that they have encountered when fielding their newest versions of PPE to servicemembers. The report would include any cost overruns or contractor delays in fielding this new equipment to servicemembers.
  • Require the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to begin administering a trackable system for data input related to injuries to accompany the issuance of new PPE. This could be done through an already-existing system such as the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS).
  • Require DHA to provide a report to Congress in the 2025 Fiscal Year identifying the prevalence of preventable injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE.
  • Require the DoD to include questions in the annual Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) on whether Servicemembers incurred an injury in connection with ill-fitting or malfunctioning PPE.

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