With a little push from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Army says it has completed its assessment of $3 million worth of high-tech, lightweight body armor and will send it immediately to soldiers in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. The Army was dragging out testing on the new armor, which takes as much as 25 pounds off soldiers’ loads, worried that combat deaths resulting from the new equipment would raise public ire, the Times reported earlier.
Gates scrutiny helped accelerate the decision. “He wanted to know why this latest body armor design had not yet been provided to our soldiers,” a Pentagon spokesman said. Though lighter vests will be sent to Afghanistan, the Army is not including lighter armor plates the Special Forces have adopted. The average soldier’s load on extended missions can reach 120 pounds.