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New task force to focus on protective gear

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2009) -- A new Army task force is focused on ensuring continuity and synchronization across the procurement process for Soldier protective gear.

Task Force Soldier Protection, announced March 12 during a media roundtable at the Pentagon, falls under Program Executive Office Soldier -- an Army agency responsible for developing, procuring, fielding and sustaining virtually all things carried and worn by Soldiers. Al Dassonville heads up the new task force.

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"I look forward to the challenge of running this task force -- synchronizing all of our resources across the Department of Defense -- to make sure we maintain the highest standards for our Soldier protective equipment and to ensure we have got all the appropriate resources synchronized to bring the best world-class equipment to Soldiers," Dassonville said.

The new task force will ensure that Army standards and policies for procurement of Soldier protective gear -- including such things as body armor, helmets and eyewear -- are followed across the entire chain of agencies and organizations involved in fielding such equipment.

"We are trying to ensure we maintain synchronized and well-communicated and well-integrated actions associated with Soldier protection items," said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, Program Executive Officer Soldier. "We are stepping up the game."

According to Dassonville, top priorities for the task force include ensuring that contracting, testing and quality control of protective gear are conducted appropriately and efficiently; and ensuring that quality control continues to follow Army standards across all agencies involved in procurement of protective gear.

"It is easy enough to write a standard," Dassonville said. "It is one thing to write it -- it is another thing to go back and make sure everybody involved in the process understands it and does it. That is the other part that this task force is going to do."

Across the Department of Defense, there are multiple organizations involved with getting a new idea for Soldier protective gear into the hands of a Soldier, Fuller said. He explained that from the inception of a new piece of gear to the placing of that gear into a Soldier's hands, there are agencies that develop items, write contracts, produce equipment and test it.

Not all of those organizations are strictly Army organizations. But the goal of Task Force Soldier Protection is to ensure they all know what their mission is, and that they all are following the same set of strict Army guidelines for Soldier protective gear, Fuller said.

"The point of TFSP is to synchronize and integrate all the stakeholders working on Soldier protection items," said Fuller. "We want to make sure everybody is working on the same thing and understands what the left and right are doing in relation to what they are working on. The Army wants to ensure that the highest standards are consistently applied to all processes related to Soldiers' survivability equipment."

Task Force Soldier Protection is currently intended as a temporary organization. In June, the results of the task force will be reviewed, officials said. A decision to dissolve or continue the task force will be made at that time.

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