New Accreditation Program for Testing Personal Body Armor

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in cooperation with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), has established a new accreditation program for laboratories that test personal body armor. The deadline for inclusion in the first group of candidates for accreditation is Dec. 15, 2007.

Personal body armor can mean the difference between life and death for law enforcement officers who routinely put themselves at risk to protect the public. The NIJ reports that more than 3,000 officers’ lives have been saved by personal body armor since standards were first introduced for ballistic resistance in 1972. It is imperative that the body armor that law enforcement agencies use meet meaningful minimum performance requirements, and demonstrating that requires thorough testing at reliable testing facilities.

As part of the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), the new NIST program will ensure that an accredited laboratory performing tests on personal body armor is capable of obtaining reliable data and competently conducts testing in the manner described in the draft standard NIJ-0101.06: Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor. NIST made technical recommendations to the draft standard at the request of the NIJ, which is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The minimum performance requirements defined by the standards are reevaluated and updated periodically as new safety issues arise and new discoveries are made. The new draft standard is the latest recommendation following the release of interim requirements in 2005 after it was revealed that some models of body armor found to comply with the previous standard saw a significant reduction in efficacy once placed into field service. The new standards take these concerns and others into account, and the accreditation program NIST is implementing has been designed to make sure that those standards are being met when the next generation of armors is tested.

Laboratories wishing to be accredited must submit an application and pay required fees. Applications received after Dec. 15, 2007, will be considered in the order they are received. Successful applications are contingent upon the completion of the application process, which includes an assay of the operation by technical experts and demonstrated proficiency of personnel.

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