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S. 2970: Female Body Armor Modernization Act of 2019


Too many women in the military are made to wear protective clothing items originally designed for men, in which proportions and measurements are wrong even when sized up or down.

Context

More than 210,000 women are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Women represent about 16.3% of active duty troops.

However, the clothing, gear, and equipment had not always kept pace with the military’s changing demographics. The annual report from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services details the shortage of protective equipment designed to female bodily specifications.

The result can be life-threatening. Stars & Stripes interviewed a female sergeant whose helmet didn’t sit correctly on her head and whose protective vest’s shoulders were too wide for her to properly hold her rifle.

What the bill does

The Body Armor for Females Modernization Act would institute several reforms designed to help better tailor protective equipment to women in the military, including:

  • Speeding up the procurement process for “next generation PPE” [personal protective equipment] which better fits women.
  • Requiring each military department to submit a 2021 report on the subject of women and military equipment, as it relates to their own branch.
  • Tasks the Defense Health Agency (DHA) with developing a new system to track injuries and other issues related to personal protective equipment.

The Senate version was introduced on December 3 as bill number S. 2970, by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). The House version was introduced on December 19 as bill number H.R. 5491, by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC2).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the legislation helps women, for whom ill-fitting equipment can present an unintentional barrier to optimal military service.

“Women deserve the proper fitting personal protective equipment from the day they enter the military — not just when deploying,” Rep. Wilson said in a press release. “Our military’s readiness depends on soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors to ‘train like they fight.’ This bill will expedite the procuring and fielding of new generation equipment that better protects females.”

“Right now, female servicemembers are facing injuries due to ill-fitting equipment. We must do better for our military men and women,” Sen. Ernst said in a separate press release. “This commonsense, bipartisan proposal is a step toward ensuring adequate and proper-fitting equipment is readily available to our female servicemembers to ensure their readiness, survivability, and effectiveness in combat.”

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any explicit statements of opposition.

Odds of passage

The Senate version has attracted five bipartisan cosponsors: four Democrats and one Republican. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The House version has attracted five bipartisan cosponsors: three Republicans and two Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Armed Services Committee.

The bipartisan nature of the legislation makes it a potential candidate for passage, although it’s also possible it could be incorporated into the larger annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It’s also possible the military could incorporate some of these reforms of their own accord.

Last updated Jan 13, 2020. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Dec 3, 2019.


Female Body Armor Modernization Act of 2019

This bill requires each department of the U.S. Armed Forces to provide specified data and assessment concerning personal protection equipment. In addition, the Defense Health Agency must track and report on injuries among service members during the use of such equipment.